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ONO Appeals against TOSACO authorisation

Reference no 1415 pertains

Oceans Not Oil’s appeal, in terms of section 96(1) of the MPRDA, against the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy’s decision to approve the Tosaco Energy (Pty) Ltd Exploration Right (ER) for offshore oil and gas in Block 1, located off the West Coast of South Africa (Exploration Right 12/3/362).

1. Procedural irregularities

a) The environmental authorisation application was irregularly submitted to PASA (17 March 2021 ), and not the competent authority DMRE. EIA Regulations (reg 5.) prior to amendments of 11 June 2021 stipulate the application must be submitted to the relevant office of the Department responsible for mineral resources as identified by that Department. According to section 42B of NEMA the Minister responsible for mineral resources does not have the power to subdelegate duties or powers to a state-owned agency, such as PASA. Since PASA has acted ultra vires the entire DEIA process is therefore critically flawed. 

b)Specialist assessments – Marine Faunal Impact Assessment (dated February 2021) and the Specialist Fisheries Assessment (dated March 2021) – were requisitioned prior to the EIA phase, as per instruction from PASA, instead of the competent authority DMRE, in a pre-application meeting (3 Feb 2021) between the applicant’s environmental assessment practitioner (EIMS) and PASA. DMRE was not represented at this irregular pre-application meeting. 

This bias disqualified I&APs from procedurally inclusive and fair decision-making processes, narrowing the scope of specialist assessment, guidelines and methodologies. As such the entire Scoping and EIA procedure has been rendered exclusionary, and so, meaningless. 

c) The South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) has refused to authorise this application, warning that, “This authorisation therefore could be interpreted as authorising the applicants to sidestep the protection of heritage legislation; This has implications contrary to the constitutional rights of South Africans to have their heritage and culture protected.” [1]

d) There has been neither a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) done for the offshore oil and gas sector, nor specifically for this region where people often depend more directly on natural resources. Given that the sole purpose of the exploration is the pursuit of oil and gas reserves for consumption; that neither global warming nor planetary tipping points linked to anthropogenic emissions; nor customary rights, heritage and livelihoods have been considered in the EIAR, there is a glaring omission to the process, rendering it not only deeply flawed, but dangerous. 

Tosaco has the strategic objective to grow an oil-based offshore portfolio in South Africa with the assumption that they can burn all of their proven reserves, along with any additional reserves they discover. This business model poses a threat to South Africa’s Energy and Climate Change policies and strategies, and our international obligations to limit global warming to well below 1.5°C, to prevent irreversible global warming and further biodiversity loss. 

Studies show that sustained high levels of GHG emissions could suppress marine biological productivity for a millennium[i]

e)Section 9 of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) shows insufficient attention given to examining the socio-economic impacts of the reconnaissance process to coastal communities.

i) No specialist Cultural Heritage impact assessments have been conducted, as requested by Dr Sunde  (Comments and Responses, 1415 Tosaco, Energy Block 1 Exploration Right EIA, Saturday, 31 July 2021 p.40)

As Dr Sunde points out, ”some of the indigenous communities who have lived along this coastline, including the Toppenaar of Namibia, for whom the sea is sacred, need to be adequately consulted as this project has potential risks for the well-being of the ocean ecosystems that play a key role in their livelihoods and cultural well-being.” This EIAR falls short in establishing nonmarket impacts to the complex transformative relationship between cosmologies of the ocean, heritage values and practices held by first and indigenous people and communities relevant to this application.

ii)Potentially impacted communities (Hondeklip Bay, Soebatsfontein, Koiingnaas, Kleinzee, Komaggas , Port Nolloth and Buffels River) complained that public participation consultations were very technical and exclusionary. Complex technical discussion was in English, as is all literature, and failed to consider ethnodiversity. It is particularly important that all stakeholders are provided with complete relevant information to allow for informed and impartial decision-making. Many of the Interested and Affected Parties (I&AP) do not speak English with the proficiency required to fully understand the literature to grasp the implications of these projects and how to address these. Meaningful public participation must account for the language barriers of South Africa’s multilingual society and provide clear, comprehensive and accessible information

Requests were made for the EAP to return at a more appropriate time when the communities were not at work and to engage in a way that spoke to local concerns with elders and fisherfolk in their community. EIMS promised to return but never did. As such, the public participation process lacks authenticity in its level of stakeholder engagement, appears to have marginalised affected communities and precluded determining significance where biophysical impacts have social or cultural implications. This has extra consequences, as these groups have dependencies on and histories linked to the environment not shared by others. Also, this sits contrary to the NEMA principles and to best practice standards for public consultation in environmental law.

f)A Full Cost Benefits analysis has not been undertaken for the Tosaco application. Treating a seismic application with an ad hoc, piecemeal approach fails to establish the feasibility of this oil and gas development based on its lifecycle. Considering the favourable 100% “uplift” capital expenditure provision, involving the public purse, for oil corporations that make discoveries in this country, there is a real risk of climate-related asset stranding and reduced profits for exploration and production of fossil fuels, which deserve special attention prior to awarding an EA. 

i)Considerable uncertainty exists for the financing needs, recoverability, transferability and longevity of the offshore sector. Hansen (2022) shows that fossil fuel reserves will suffer a devaluation of 37%–50%[ii] due to climate stabilisation mitigation. “Over half (51%–63%) of the reserve devaluation stems not from fuels left in the ground but from price decreases for fuels that will still be extracted and sold during climate stabilization, indicating that even low-cost producers stand to bear large losses.”

ii)Global carbon budget imperatives demand that this feasibility must be compared to returns on the cost of investment in renewable power generation projected to 2050 and should include externalised costs of emissions and include monetising the impacts on human health and the cost to remedy it.

iii) Study after study reveal that sustainable energy sources have the cost-benefit advantage in both the short and long term against fossil fuels.

Brown et al. (2018) have shown the feasibility and economic viability of a 100% renewable electricity system for South Africa, meeting the “energy needs of all citizens at all times” is “cost-competitive with fossil- fuel-based systems, even before externalities such as global warming, water usage and environmental pollution are taken into account”. [iii]

They have established that a 100% renewable-electricity system requires no ‘re-invention’ of the power system, rather only a “directed evolution of the current system is required to guarantee affordability, reliability and sustainability”. In far less than six years ( see 1.b.ii) there could be sufficient renewable electricity generation and storage technology to convert entirely to renewables.

iv) The Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change (CMCC) Foundation and RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment (EIEE) and Athens University of Economics and Business have projected a cost of up to 20% of GDP in their investigation into how climate change could impact the GDP of South Africa.[iv]

Delayed action on an energy transition away from fossil fuels could maximize adverse impacts to a Just Transition for extractive workers and minimize the opportunities offered by a transformation of the energy sector.[v] 

v)A cost benefit analysis will establish whether this Tosaco development will align with NDP goals. 

Playing itself out in Mozambique currently is the recurring pattern of the ‘pre-source curse’ effect: increase indebtedness, corruption and instability which frequently follow major oil and gas resource finds, even before production begins[vi]. E3G, an independent European climate change think tank, has found that, on average, Mozambicans are poorer than they were a decade ago with 90% under the international poverty line. Cabo Delgado, where the gas projects are based and site of an ongoing violent conflict, household spending has dropped by 38% in the last 5 years.[vii] 

2.Need and Desirability not properly assessed

The need and desirability of the project have not been addressed according to guidelines[2] (Guideline on Need and Desirability, 2017) wherein it states, “it must be decided which alternatives represent the “most practicable environmental option”, which in terms of the definition in NEMA and the purpose of the EIA Regulations, are that option that provides the most benefit and causes the least damage to the environment as a whole, at a cost acceptable to society, in the long-term as well as in the short-term.”

a)The issue of global warming is not broader than the scope of the EIAR and should be centralised within it. There are existential issues at play that cannot be easily undone. It is trite that alternative sources of renewable energy could replace the reconnaissance for, and consumption of fossil fuels, whilst spurring economic growth in the urgent matter cutting greenhouse gas emissions (Valli Moosa, deputy chairman of the Presidential Climate Change Coordinating Commission). 

b) It is also trite that there are strategic and economic reasons to re-evaluate identifying oil and gas resources with a view to further exploration and production (International Institute for Sustainable Development, 2022). These reasons include international gas phase-out pressure; reduced funding, increase cost of capital, carbon tax, trade taxes, etc and that gas functions in the electricity sector are already outcompeted, or expected, based on trends.[viii] 

On this basis of this alone the authorisation should be reconsidered and set aside. 

3. Shortcomings in Methods

The scope of an EIAR does not reflect the current state of research practice, indicating that the methods used to assess impact may be biased against findings of significance, and could affect the level of confidence that can be placed in the effectiveness of proposed mitigation measures. 

a) Mitigation effectiveness was not addressed.

i)For instance it is ridiculous to suggest that “all initiation of airgun firing be carried out as “soft-starts” of at least 20 minutes duration, allowing neritic and pelagic cephalopods to move out of the survey area.” Squid, octopus, cuttlefish, or nautilus will never be able to escape the impacts of an airgun array travelling at 4 -6 knots.

b) Furthermore, some mitigation proposals, such as survey window periods avoiding peak fishing activity, MPA buffers, avoidance of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), turning pathways, are worded in such a way that it is unclear if they would even be implemented.

c)Uncertainty of seismic survey impact reduction was not addressed,

i) vis-à-vis the critical protection offered by MPAs, EBSAs, CBAs, ESAs and VMEs as nursery areas, especially in the light of climate adaption and cumulative effects from mining operations in the area.

ii) vis-à-vis catch for local small-scale fisheries. No reference is made to how fisheries will be compensated in the event of impacts to catches by the survey.

iii) The suggested 3D survey window period (start December to end May) coincides with fish and mammal migration periods and fish spawning periods, making a mockery of the recommended mitigatory measures of avoiding these periods, rendering this EIAR fatally flawed.

d) Some of the literature cited is outdated, there have been additional projects, such SANBI’s Deep Secrets and SEAKeys  which have added extensive knowledge to ecosystems that had never been surveyed before. The Marine Fauna Report also leaves much to be desired in terms of actual impact. The report consistently acknowledges that the target area contains threatened (Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable) species from multiple and various groups of birds, mammals, reptiles, fish and Chondrichthyes. The rating of residual impact on species is merely based on opinion, because, apart from a single study on African Penguins (Pichegru et al. 2017), there has been no research in South Africa on seismic surveys or offshore exploration impacts.


The EIAR justifies low impact ratings to fisheries by claiming sound is expected to “attenuate below 160 dB less than 1,325 m from the source array“, however elsewhere in the EIAR there’s the acknowledgement that Madsen et al. (2006) overturned this assumption finding high exposure levels at considerable ranges from the air-gun array and that received sound pressures and sound exposure levels may actually increase with range beyond 5 km range up to 12.6 km from source. Madsen et al. believe this high-frequency acoustic by-product on marine mammals should not be dismissed lightly and that it poses the challenge of how to mitigate where animals can dive in and out of high exposure levels at considerable ranges from the air-gun array[ix]. This poses a particularly serious risk due to the vicinity of the survey to the shoreline, small-scale fisheries and critical marine biodiversity areas.

4. Impacts to Fisheries and MPAs not adequately assessed

The EIAR has not established beyond reasonable doubt, nor with transparent justification, that impacts to local small scale fisheries will not be substantial.

a) There is a very real risk of displacement from feeding or breeding areas which could have far reaching effects not only for whole, and vulnerable, animal populations, but also on 12 fishing sectors and our food security. This demands a critical and more thorough review of any suspected risk.

b) The DEAIR has not given adequate consideration to the duration of impact for small scale fishers. Economic losses by disruptions and loss of earnings over a 4-month period are potentially ruinous to small scale fishers, and severely understated. 

West Coast rock lobster:

i) The West Coast rock lobster (Jasus lalandii) resource is now considered severely overexploited with current resource estimates of adult males above 75 mm carapace length at less than 1.5% of its 1910 pristine biomass. Fishing communities that depend on this resource are equally at risk and face dire socio-economic circumstances. They have repeatedly highlighted their concerns that there is an increasing overlap of their fish areas and the Mining sector[x]. West Coast rock lobster are slow growing long-lived animals, additional pressure on these stocks can lead to a complete collapse of this fishery for a community which is already marginalised.  

ii) The applicant proposes to conduct the seismic survey directly adjacent to, by making a detour to avoid operating right over it, the Namaqua National Park MPA, which serves as an important habitat for the West Coast rock lobster. The eastern side of the seismic operations zone sits approximately 16.5kms from the shoreline. Turning requires an additional 4.5kms, taking operations 12kms near the shore, close enough to blanket lobster habitat range with noise. The ensonification range of seismic airguns can extend up to 300 000 km[xi], have been recorded at locations up to 4000km from the source[xii],and extend particularly well in deeper waters[xiii].  

iii) A new study on rock lobsters[xiv] adds to an expanding body of work showing that marine invertebrates are severely affected by seismic blasts. The lobsters demonstrated extensive damage to their statocysts – the balance sensory receptor, or hair-lined fluid-filled sac, that detects gravity, body positioning, and movement that is commonly found in aquatic invertebrates, including bivalves, cnidarians, echinoderms, cephalopods, and crustaceans. The statocyst plays a vital role in simple and complex behaviours, including normal patterns of swimming, righting, recessing, foraging, and predator avoidance. This damage remained for a year and even after moulting, leaving authors of the study, Day et al., questioning how the lobsters would function in the wild thereafter.

Day et al. state:
“Globally, rock lobster fisheries have a high socioeconomic value and rock lobsters themselves are an ecologically important keystone species: one that exerts a disproportionately large influence on the ecosystem relative to the size of their population, with impacts to populations capable of driving system-wide regime shifts with flow-on effects to other fisheries .”

Snoek & Tuna Fisheries
i) Although the EIAR predicts that the Tuna Pole Line fisheries will be affected by stating that “The probability of the impact materialising is considered to be medium (>50% and <75%). Based on the above ratings, the overall significance of the impact is assessed to be low negative”, this is based on no research in South African waters and does not acknowledge that effects of seismic surveys have already impacted this industry.

ii) It remains for Tosaco to qualify their assessment of ‘low negative significance’, given the recommendation “that the seismic survey be timed to avoid the seasonal activity of snoek-directed coastal fishing”, ( 1415 EIAR, p.173) which implies the potential affects to small scale snoek fisheries could be significant. This is a matter of food security, livelihoods and heritage for this sector. 

iii) The EIAR claims 27% of snoek catch landed by the sector is reported within the licence block. Tosaco needs to justify a significance rating as “no impact” by exclusion by producing an acoustic assessment, proper stakeholder engagement and a cost analysis.

iv) The EIAR failed to acknowledge behavioural traits of various commercial fish, including snoek, which move up and down the water column in 24 hrs to forage, which could expose them to direct injury or mortal impacts. They also downplay the impacts, not taking into account any cumulative impacts of multiple fisheries.

v) Neither sound nor fish respect boundaries on maps, and seismic surveys have been shown to scare fish away from their usual habitats. “Zones of exclusion” therefore are unreliable and create a false basis for analysis. 

i)A study commissioned by the Namibian government revealed that an 84% decline in tuna catches (650 tonnes in 2013 from 4,046 tonnes in 2011) was a result of an increase in seismic activity from oil and gas in the Orange River Basin, driving tuna from their normal migratory routes[xv]

ii)Effects of air gun pulses on fish can range from serious injury at short ranges, where seismic noise has deafened fish several kilometres away from the air-guns with no recovery after 58 days[xvi]; massive hearing trauma in four squid species[xvii], increased stress signals[xviii],[xix],[xx],[xxi]; disruption in schooling and migration[xxii];disruption of homing or orientation[xxiii]; decreased feeding efficiency[xxiv]; and reduced catch rates of 40-80% in areas more than 30 km from seismic surveys[xxv],[xxvi],[xxvii].

iii) According to Russell (2018), The west coast tuna pole and line fishery showed localised impacts, disrupting fast swimming tuna migration flow by forcing them to move on. Where there are cumulative impacts from repetitive surveys in the same area, there is the possibility that tuna change their migration path. This has occurred off Southern Namibia tuna fishing grounds, where catches have severely declined since 2011, and in 2017 dropped off to non-commercial catch rates

iv)The destructive effects on eggs, larvae and fry by seismic surveys have been shown to impact fishing success.[xxviii]

v) Airgun operations kill large swathes of plankton[xxix] , the basis of the marine food chain, up to 1.2km from the sound source. Within a recent study area, zooplankton abundance dropped by two-thirds[xxx]. McCauley et al. (2017) believe that “it is highly probable that sig­nificant depletion or modification of plankton community struc­ture is occurring on the scale of 3D seismic surveys undertaken”. They warn of the ramifications for ocean ecosystem structure and health considering a significant component of zooplankton communities comprises the larval stages of many commercial fisheries species and healthy populations of fish, top predators and marine mammals are not possible without viable planktonic productivity.

Planktonic crustaceans lock up carbon from phytoplankton, keeping it out of the atmosphere and play a significant part in cycling carbon around the planet[xxxi], therefore, helping to control climate change.


Potentially, from the annual South Africa squid catch data, there is a correlation between seismic surveys and drop in squid jig catches[xxxii]. Squid (chokka, Loligo reynaudi) are short-lived species and there are serious concerns about the impact of low frequency seismic airgun sounds on squid, where squid can die or suffer severe organ damage. Consultant to the Responsible Fisheries Alliance, David Russell, warns that larvae and juveniles may also be more susceptible to the harm of underwater noise than adults, possibly jeopardizing the sustainability of populations[xxxiii].

Furthermore, larvae and juveniles may be more susceptible to the harm of underwater noise than adults, possibly jeopardizing the sustainability of populations. Seismic noise has been shown to have more severe impacts on juvenile scallops, crabs, and squid[xxxiv].

5. Deleterious Effects to Marine Life

a) The EIAR recognizes that the adverse effect of continuous noise exposure may intensify and last for a considerable time after the termination of the sound source, however neither stress nor maladaptive neuroplastic changes within the central auditory pathway symptomatic of noise exposure induced tinnitus in marine animals are broached. Animal models of tinnitus show it is a complex perceptual phenomenon affecting the quality of life of those afflicted, and it must be remembered that this survey will be operational every 10 seconds for 24 hours a day for 4 months, frequently compounded by multibeam bathymetric sonar output. 

i)Stress in marine mammals related to anthropogenic noise exposure has been conclusively proven[xxxv], and prolonged exposure to noise stressors is known to cause significant impacts in a number of species[xxxvi]. These studies indicate that chronic elevations of stress to the organisms in the ecosystems may cause metabolic maladaptation, suppressing growth, immune system function, thermoregulation and reproduction with implications for individual and population fitness[xxxvii].

b) South Africa’s endangered African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) has been shown to avoid its preferred feeding areas during seismic surveys, feeding further from the survey vessel when in operation[xxxviii].  With a 70 % decline in their numbers since 2004 and commercial fishing changing and decreasing their fish stocks in the vicinity of their breeding colonies, these seismic surveys pose a real risk of further increasing fish scarcity thereby increasing foraging ranges with implications for individual and population fitness for the African Penguin. Furthermore, African Penguins have been recorded as far as 60 km offshore, this distribution is not taken into account in the EIAR. 

c)Seismic surveys have the potential to exert significant deleterious effects, both at short range and long range[xxxix] on the physical health, behaviour, distribution, communication, feeding, and social dynamics of marine mammals, particularly cetaceans.  There is extensive scientific literature documenting the effects of underwater noise, including oil exploration seismic arrays, on marine organisms, in particular marine mammals[xl],[xli],[xlii],[xliii],[xliv],[xlv],[xlvi]

d) These effects can include hearing loss (temporary or permanent), masking of communication, physiological stress, acoustic resonance in air cavities, organ rupture, behavioural responses, avoidance of critical habitat areas, decompression sickness, and mass strandings[xlvii],[xlviii]

e) Since October 2021, Cape fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus) have been under duress, with die-offs of thousands of individuals. Their foraging areas include the continental shelf up to 120 nautical miles offshore[xlix] and therefore within the vicinity of the survey. Additional stress from seismic activity at this time is inadvisable[3].

6. Contextual Certainties not established for either The Scoping report or the Draft Environmental Impact Assessment Report 

It can reasonably be argued that much contemporary baseline information against which the impact of the project can be weighed remains unavailable and accordingly it cannot be said that context has been properly established within the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR). Support for this submission is as follows:

a)The EIAR is filled with “unknowns”, “substantial gaps” and a lack of local baseline study on many species and the effects of noise on these species. Singh et al. (2022) warn that “the relative paucity of data in the South African context does not equate to no harm nor a low likelihood of harm.”[l] This many fundamentally significant unknowns must affect the validity of the impact assessments, making ‘minimising impact to acceptable levels’ guesswork at best.

7. Mitigation Measures Inadequate

a) Risk assessments have omitted characteristics of the specific survey to be used.

i)No detailing is given regards:

1.airgun equipment, 

2.the amount of guns in the arrays and 

3.the airgun volumes used, and 

4. no indication is given whether multibeam bathymetric surveying will take place concurrently to the seismic survey/s. 

b)The EIAR suggests that Tosaco must comply with a variety of international protocols but none of these protocols are specific to underwater noise.

i)There is no acoustic modelling of probable noise propagation in the area to be surveyed. Seismic surveys (and bathymetric multibeam sonar acquisition) are anthropogenic sonic phenomena that are actively pursued for their powerful affective qualities. Establishing a hearing threshold-based safety zone based on a Permanent and Temporary Threshold Shift is imperative to reduce the likelihood of physiological effects resulting in killing of individuals

ii)Cumulative acoustic limits should be established. These limits should be appropriately matched to the spatiotemporal scale and exposure rate of the risks to individuals and populations. Measurement of noise budget, such as those under consideration under the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (Tasker et al. 2010), should lead to limits on the source levels that are introduced on a regional scale.

Prescribed guidelines cannot prevent harm to marine turtles and mammals, given the complex propagation of airgun pulses; the side-lobes of unknown energy and propagation of multibeam sonar operations, the difficulty of monitoring, in particular, the smaller, cryptic, deep-diving species, such as beaked whales and porpoises; limitations in monitoring requirements; lack of baseline data; and other biological and acoustical complications or unknowns. Furthermore, recent literature provides credible concern about ecosystem/food-chain impacts of seismic surveys, which may in turn have an impact on fisheries, the severity and localisation of which will depend on coincidences with spawning and juvenile recruitment events. It is strongly recommended that further studies on these impacts, in the South African context, are carried out in situ before proceeding with this seismic survey 

d) Given the limitations with suggested detection of marine animal presence around a sound source in this EIAR, namely the ineffectiveness of marine mammal observer (MMO) surveillance in darkness, obstructed visibility (e.g. fog) and high sea states and that animals may not be vocalizing, so limiting the efficacy of PAM, greater effort is needed to assess the various technologies available for detecting marine animals in low-visibility conditions. Technologies that need to be explored include active acoustic monitoring (AAM), radio detection and ranging (RADAR), light detection and ranging (LIDAR), satellite, and spectral camera systems, especially infrared (IR).

e) The speed at which the ship moves plus the duty cycle and beam shape of the equipment govern the number of pulses of a given intensity a point in the survey area will receive. Likewise, it governs the ability of animals to avoid the noise. These criteria need to be continually revised by onboard Marine Mammal Observers to ensure that they are up to date, precautionary and take into account masking effects and other potential lower-level sub-lethal impacts to individuals and populations.

8. Cumulative Impacts Not Properly Assessed

Recurring impacts along this section of coastline where there is a wide range of extractive activities and the possibility of concurrent seismic surveys, have not been considered, by the EIAR. Parsons et al.(2009) warn that some of the more insidious, and potentially devastating, impacts arise through long-term, repeated, persistent or cumulative exposures.

9. Technology Alternatives Not Properly addressed

If Tosaco is working towards implementing worldwide best practice mitigation procedures even modest levels of noise reduction could substantially reduce impacts on marine animals. 

a)Alternative survey technologies [li] including Wide Azimuth data acquisition and Marine Vibroseis have been developed that are likely to be less harmful and should be prioritized. Instead of a sharp onset, loud intense “shot”, Vibroseis uses the same energy but spread over a longer duration, thus eliminating the sharp rise time (sounds quickly increasing in loudness) and high peak pressure (volume or amplitude) of airguns – two characteristics of sound thought to be the most injurious to living tissues (Southall et al.2007).

b) Airgun silencers reduce noise at higher frequencies. They are made from acoustically absorbent foam rubber and significantly reduce noise levels above 700 Hz to a maximum of 6 dB with an additional increase in sound levels around 100 Hz. 

10. No Go Alternative Not Properly Assessed

That seismic surveys have previously been conducted in South African waters does not establish irrevocable precedent, nor legitimise such activities in perpetuity (Singh. J et al, 2022). Continued oil and gas exploration for consumption will make the world uninhabitable for humans, and many other species. Scientific consensus in IPCC reports (Rogelj et al., 2018; Masson-Delmotte et al., 2019) states categorically that continued fossil fuel emissions are exacerbating ocean acidification and oxygen loss, which are already disrupting marine ecosystems and adding to ocean warming, which in turn creates sea level rise. Authorising this exploration right does not align with the third instalment of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) requiring “immediate and deep” cuts in emissions everywhere. Given that a ‘no-go’ alternative on a project whose sole imperative is the output of fossil fuel emissions was not considered is another fatal flaw in the authorisation

For all the reasons stated above it is our contention that the authorisation should not have granted and as such we request that the decision to grant the permit referred to above be reconsidered and set aside and that the proposed reconnaissance survey does not proceed.


  • Harris, J.M., Olbers. J.M., Wright, K. 2022. Report on scientific basis for concerns of significant harm inflicted to marine wildlife by 2d and 3d Seismic Surveys on the South and West Coasts of South Africa. Specialist report: Cape Town High Court in the case Christian John Adams and Others versus the Minister of Minerals and Energy and Environment and Others (Case WCDCHC 1306/22)
  • Madsen, P.T., Johnson, M., Miller, P.J.O., Aguilar Soto, N., Lynch, J., and Tyack, P. 2006. Quantitative measures of air-gun pulses recorded on sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) using acoustic tags during controlled exposure experiments. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 120: 2366–2379. doi:10.1121/1.2229287. 
  • McCauley, R. D., et al. (2017). “Widely used marine seismic survey air gun operations negatively impact zooplankton.” Nature Ecology & Evolution 1(0195): 8
  • Nieukirk, S. L., Mellinger, D. K., Moore, S. E., et al. 2012. Sounds from airguns and fin whales recorded in the mid-Atlantic Ocean, 1999–2009. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 131, 1102–12.
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  • Parsons, E.C.M., Dolman, S.J., Jasny, M., Rose, N.A., Simmonds, M.P. and Wright, A.J., 2009. A critique of the UK’s JNCC seismic survey guidelines for minimising acoustic disturbance to marine mammals: Best practise?. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 58(5), pp.643-651.)
  • Pichegru, L., et al. (2017). “Avoidance of seismic survey activities by penguins.” Scientific Reports 7(16305): 8. 
  • Richardson, W.J., Greene, Jr., C.R., Malme, C.I., Thomson, D.H. 1995. Marine Mammals and Noise. Academic Press, San Diego.
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  • Tasker, M.L., Amundin M., Andre M., Hawkins A.D., Lang, W. Merck, T. Scholik-Schlomer, A. Teilman, J. Thomsen, F. Werner S. and Zakharia M., Marine Strategy Framework Directive: Task Group 11 Report: Underwater noise and other forms of energy, JRC Scientific and Technical Report No. EUR 24341 EN – 2010, European Commission and International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, Luxembourg, 2010 
  • The Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC Working Group III report, Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of climate change. 2022.Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)


[2] (emphasis added)

[3] Harris, J.M., Olbers. J.M., Wright, K. 2022. Report on scientific basis for concerns of significant harm inflicted to marine wildlife by 2d and 3d Seismic Surveys on the South and West Coasts of South Africa. Cape Town High Court in the case Christian John Adams and Others versus the Minister of Minerals and Energy and Environment and Others (Annexure 3 Judgement in Case WCDCHC 1306/22).

[i] Moore, J.K., Fu, W., Primeau, F., Britten, G.L., Lindsay, K., Long, M., Doney, S.C., Mahowald, N., Hoffman, F. and Randerson, J.T., 2018. Sustained climate warming drives declining marine biological productivity. Science359(6380), pp.1139-1143.

[ii] Hansen, T.A., 2022. Stranded assets and reduced profits: Analyzing the economic underpinnings of the fossil fuel industry’s resistance to climate stabilization. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews158, p.112144.

[iii] Brown, T. W., Bischof-Niemz, T., Blok, K., Breyer, C., Lund, H., & Mathiesen, B. V. (2018). Response to ‘Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems’. Renewable and sustainable energy reviews92, 834-847.

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