Shell’s Wild Coast seismic survey fuels call for boycott at pumps
Plans to explore the coast have sparked public outrage and ignited campaigns to stop the oil firm
Protests against Shell’s exploration plan along the Wild Coast are gaining momentum, with growing calls to boycott the multinational at the pumps.
Shell recently made public its plan to start a seismic survey for oil and gas along SA’s sensitive Wild Coast from December 1, with government approval.
The announcement has drawn widespread public outrage and ignited a petition campaign to stop the survey.
Oceans Not Oil, which describes itself as the public’s voice against offshore oil and gas development, has been driving the campaign.
The week of protests began in Cape Town when the Amazon Warrior, the ship commissioned by Shell to conduct the survey, arrived on Sunday.
Oceans Not Oil says the government’s Operation Phakisa, which focuses on unlocking the economic potential of SA’s oceans, is driving Shell’s exploration.
The government believes Operation Phakisa could contribute up to R177bn to GDP by 2033 and create between 800,000 and a million direct jobs.
The department of forestry, fisheries and the environment noted in a recent statement concerns about the seismic surveys to be conducted by Shell and Impact Africa off the coast of SA between December and February 2022.
“The impact of the seismic survey to be undertaken by Shell and Impact Africa has been authorised under the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act ((MPRDA) which under Section 39(2) of the act requires the submission of an environmental management plan which is to assess and evaluate the environmental impacts of the activity.
“The minister of mineral resources and energy is the minister responsible for the administration of the MPRDA. The minister responsible for environmental affairs is, therefore, not mandated to consider the application or to make a decision on the authorisation of the seismic survey.
The high-noise blasting of sonar canons under water for ‘seismic testing’ is a direct threat to whales, dolphins, our famous king fish and all kinds of marine life.
“It should be noted that since the coming into effect of the One Environment System on December 8 2014, the application process for the seismic surveys was finalised.
“All decisions made under the MPRDA at the time remain valid and binding until set aside by a court of law.”
Concerned South Africans have taken to social media to express their willingness to boycott Shell service stations over the festive season.
“Signing a petition will achieve nothing. Rather, hit them where it hurts most: STOP filling up at all Shell petrol stations! Spread the word,” one Facebook user said.
The Amadiba community, along the Wild Coast, is also planning a march from Mnyameni Beach in Bizana on December 5.
A crisis committee said concerned residents from the KZN south coast would start their march at the Wild Coast Sun and meet the community at the Mzamba estuary.
“The high-noise blasting of sonar canons under water for ‘seismic testing’ is a direct threat to whales, dolphins, our famous king fish and all kinds of marine life,” it said.
“It is also a threat against the livelihood of communities along the Wild Coast and in KZN who use the riches of the sea to put food on the table and to get an income.
“Aside of the risk for future oil spill into the sea, if Shell finds oil and gas, drilling in the seabed threatens to bring a host of toxic substances into the water, like mercury, lead, arsenic and barium.”
“These toxins are devastating for the health of fish and ocean wildlife as well as all who live on the coast, like we do in Amadiba.”
The crisis committee said “the lives of indigenous people are now under threat as well as the jobs of fishermen.
“In addition, the ocean is not only a part of our local economy. It is also a part of our spiritual life.”
Shell recently told the Sunday Times it had followed the consultation process, including a series of face to face engagements with interested and affected groups, as well as meetings with provincial environmental authorities and traditional authorities.
It said environmental authorisation from the government had been obtained in 2014.
“An environmental compliance audit was undertaken in 2020 by independent specialists to confirm that the controls and mitigation measures were still sufficient and valid,” it said.
Shell said it adopted stringent controls and followed international best practice from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee guidelines for conducting seismic operations.