Shell faces protests over seismic survey plans in South Africa

Shell faces protests over seismic survey plans in South Africa

Nearly 200 citizens and environmental activists gathered on 21 November in the morning to protest against the arrival of seismic acquisition vessel Amazon Warrior in Cape Town harbor in South Africa ahead of Shell’s planned five-month seismic survey campaign.

Green Connection
Source: The Green Connection

Shell is planning to conduct the survey off the East Coast under an approved Environmental Management Programme (EMPr) which underwent public consultation as part of the 2013 EMPr process undertaken in terms of the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act and as part of the 2020 EMPr compliance audit process undertaken in terms of the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations 2014. 

The environmental justice nonprofit organization The Green Connection claims that the reason that the public is unhappy is that Shell had used a legal loophole as no environmental impact assessment was required in 2013, and now in 2021, this authorization is being used to justify its actions.

“No meaningful public participation is needed, yet the seismic survey will have an impact on marine life and subsequently could impact the lives and livelihoods of the fisher communities who depend on the ocean’s resources. How can our government allow a corporation to do this without any accountability?” The Green Connection’s strategic lead Liziwe McDaid said.

As per the requirements of the approved EMPr, Shell appointed SLR Consulting to notify the public about the seismic survey.

The Green Connection states it had written to SLR on 10 November asking for all the relevant permits, but the company referred the letter to Shell and there still is no response.

The organization says it is particularly concerned about the timing of the survey since it is scheduled to take place during the migration season for hump-backed whales and could also endanger juvenile turtles coming down the coast in the Agulhas current.

According to McDaid, Shell’s own 2013 EMPr states that they should try to avoid surveying during December when humpback whales may still be moving through the area on their return migrations.

“It is ludicrous, with all the credible information and the scientific evidence, that anyone can still claim that any kind of oil and gas drilling is in any way good for the planet. And if we don’t need any oil and gas drilling, then we don’t need to look for more oil and gas, and so we don’t need any more seismic surveys. This is a time for these corporations to shift from being fossil fools to working with the people to move forward to a just transition to renewable energy sources,” says McDaid.

Amazon Warrior arriving on South African coast. Source: The Green Connection

To remind, Shell hired Shearwater Geoservices to carry out the 3D seismic survey within its Transkei Exploration Area off the East Coast of South Africa from 1 December.

The 126-meter long Amazon Warrior is supposed to acquire more than 6,000 sqkm of 3D seismic data.

The Transkei block is situated north-east of Algoa in the Natal Trough Basin where highly material prospectivity associated with several large submarine fan bodies has been identified, set to be explored with focused 3D seismic data and then potential exploratory drilling.