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Small Scale Fishers stop seismic survey – for now

Photo credits: Coastal Links & Masifundisi

All engaged in the Oceans Not Oil campaign applaud the pronouncement that Australian-based Searcher Seismic and its UK division Searcher Geodata has been ordered to stop its offshore seismic survey today by Justice Daniel Thulare. Searcher had been requested earlier in the year to halt their survey pending the outcome of today’s interim interdict hearing, but had refused.

The case was brought by small scale fishers (including Steenbergs Cove Small Scale Fisheries Cooperative, the Aukatowa Small Scale Fisheries Cooperative and Coastal links Langebaan), West Coast residents, supported by The Green Connection and other civil society groups. Listed as respondents in the matter are Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy and the Petroleum Agency of South Africa (PASA) plus the survey vessel BGP Pioneer.

Searcher’s legal team seemed unprepared and procrastinating. Still unprepared to halt the survey, Searcher’s legal team offered instead to conduct the survey no closer than 58.5 km to shore pending the hearing. At which Justice Thulare asked, “So, knowing there might be irreparable damage to the applicants’ ancestral waters and livelihoods, you still won’t stop until the matter is heard?”

Small Scale Fishers have been central to this West Coast legal challenge, insisting that they be properly consulted in any marine/coastal decision-making processes. Christian John Adams, Wilfred Poggenpoel, Rosey Shoshola , Rosey Shoshola , Norton Dowries, Camelita Mostert, Anthony Andrews, Nicolaas Booysen, Regan James , Steenbergs Cove Small Scale Fisheries Cooperative, the Aukatowa Small Scale Fisheries Cooperative and Coastal links Langebaan, and consistent ally The Green Connection have highlighted the inadequate public participation process by Searcher; how Searcher’ve underplayed the impacts of seismic surveying on marine species – with massive consequence to coastal community livelihoods and customary fishing rights. Equally important in this landmark case is the linkage small scale fishers have made to climate impacts, centralising how South African and foreign investors should be investing in renewable energy sources rather than extracting further fossil fuels which are adding to global and ocean warming

It was ordered that any activities intended to give effect to or related to Searcher’s seismic survey of the west and south-west coast of South Africa that commenced on 24 January 2022 must discontinue, and Searcher to pay costs of the hearing . The Application in respect of Part A is set down for hearing on 7 March 2022 at 10h00.

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