There’s barley been a moment to breath since the announcement that Shell will no longer be permitted to blast the Wild Coast for its resources. Now, another threat looms — and it’s just three days away.
Australian company, Seismic Searcher, is set to begin its planned 2D/3D seismic survey on the Western Cape coast on January 15, according to a “mariners’ notice” it has put out and other information provided on its website.
“As per Searcher’s commitments to stakeholder consultation and engagement, under our Environmental Management Plan, for the Proposed Speculative 2D and 3D Marine Seismic Survey off the west and southwest coasts of South Africa, (Orange Basin 2D/3D MSS), we wish to ensure that users of the sea are aware of the survey, associated navigational safety and the mechanism to follow for raising concerns,” the notice says.
A Reconnaissance Permit in terms of Section 74 of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (No. 28 of 2002) by the Petroleum Agency of South on 9 November 2021 was granted with an effective date of December 6 2021. Seismic Searcher referred to the arrangement as a “collaboration” on its website.
The survey will last 55 days (up to 180 days), while a source array and streamer cable — extending up to 12 kilometres long and 8 metres below the sea surface — will be towed.
In 2D seismic surveying, both the blast and sound detectors (numbering up to a hundred or more per charger) are moved along a straight line. In 3D seismic surveying, the sound detectors (numbering up to a thousand or more) are spread out over an area and the blast is moved from location to location through the area. Seismic testing involves sending regular “blasts” under water in short sequence to create a map of the surface and sub-surface.
The noise generated can reach 250 decibels as the sound waves generated by the blast penetrates the seabed. In comparison, the loudest whale noises range between 140 and 190 decibels.
This sound is proven to disturb, scare and alter marine life, for example separating whales and their calves. Blasting will affect the endangered African penguin, two subspecies of Blue whales, the Antarctic Blue whale and the Pygmy Blue whale, the protected Southern Right whales, Bryde’s whales, Loggerhead sea turtles, Orcas and multiple shark species all found along the Western Cape coast.
In A Review of the Impacts of Seismic Airgun Surveys on Marine Life, researchers found that noise from a single seismic survey, used to discover oil and gas deposits hundreds of kilometres under the sea floor, can blanket an area of over 300,000 km2, raising background noise levels 100-fold.
In a study, around 250 male fin whales appeared to stop singing for several weeks to months during a seismic survey, resuming singing within hours or days after the survey ended. A whale’s song plays an important role in mating. It would be difficult to believe that such an effect would not be biologically significant.
The blasting also affects our fishing industry and communities off the West Coast, such as Cape Town’s famous snoek. Seismic air guns extensively damaged fish ears at distances of 500 metres to several kilometres from seismic surveys. No recovery was apparent 58 days after exposure.
Adding to the long list of concerns is the drastically decreasing fish population in Cape waters. In 2021, masses of deceased seals began washing ashore. The cause was originally attributed to Avian flu, however upon closer investigation, starvation was named the leading cause of death.
Additionally, the knock-on effects breathe worry into our tourism industry. Whale watching, for example, is a major attraction in Cape Town. South Africa was recently named amongst 52 of the New York Times’ Places for a Chanced World.
This list highlights places where change is actually happening — where endangered wild lands are being preserved, threatened species are being protected, historical wrongs are being acknowledged, fragile communities are being bolstered — and where travellers can be part of the change. The Seismic Searcher’s antics would be a devastating blow not only to local tourism, but to the reputation and work of local conservation projects.
We are South Africans is the largest civil society movement in South Africa, and they believe in peace, prosperity and safety for all. The group has worked hard to present the correct information about the Seismic Searcher expedition to the public. An act, which according to them, is seeped in government corruption and and secrecy.
The Australian company allegedly claims to have included a formal 30-day public review and comment period, none of which can be found online or presented in the media.
“The project is in collaboration with the Petroleum Agency of South Africa on some vague energy website and has been kept out of the public eye with both the permit being granted and the seismic survey beginning when most of South Africa is on holiday or returning from holiday,” says We are South Africans.
“Beyond this we sense corruption in the granting of this permit as Seismic Searcher has not provided a single document to us and refuses to do so. We do not know who their clients are, there is no media or news releases and they are not responding to our emails.
“To top it all, the ship BGP Pioneer has warned mariners that it is severely restricted in its ability to stop or turn and needs a minimum all round clearance of 11km ahead & abeam and 17km astern (9NM). How will it stop to protect wild life?” the group questions.
We are South Africans has created a petition for the public who are opposed to the blasting to sign. The petition can be accessed HERE.
The petition will be delivered to the President of the Republic of South Africa, court documents will be sent to Searcher Seismic, Minister Gwede Mantashe and Minister Barbara Creecy will be receiving the petition with further litigation against them.
We are South Africans has also appealed to both the governments of Australia and the United Kingdom with the hopes of reaching the Head of the Commonwealth so that she may “use her undue influence to help stop this tragedy from happening, while our own government sits idle and does not respond, even to the media, in anticipation of our legal response.”
Founder of We are South Africans, Gilbert Martin, wrote:
While South Africa is a sovereign nation, it is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. There have been many recorded actions by your government over the years that has adversely affected the People of South Africa.
While we have great respect for you and your ability to weather many storms, you may be entirely unaware of companies like Bell Pottinger, which thanks to your government and our intervention was stopped.
Again, we approach you with another company that has managed to get a permit through with our corrupt government without the necessary public participation or seemingly the effects on the environment.
I have sent a letter to your Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Affairs, The British High Commissioner and also the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia.
I ask you to look over and understand the urgency of this matter and hope that you would take to note that I and the members of my organisation have the same passion and care for the environment as your late husband, Prince Phillip and ask you in his memory to make a statement and get your government to order this madness to stop.
Our government unfortunately has collapsed under corruption and does not care about the needs of the People of South Africa and we are forced, as organisations and businesses to constantly having to run to courts to stop actions like these among others.
We ask your assistance and intervention on behalf of the People of South Africa in your governments even though much pain and suffering was caused by the British Government in our history in wars fought and during colonialism and we ask you to remember our dead in the fight for wealth and domination and the socio-economic effects that has had on our country.
I draw attention to our petition: www.vuma.earth/p/stopseismicsurveys
Yours, in hope and in defence of faith,
Founder, We are South Africans
Attached to Martin’s public plea are the official appeals to the Australian and United Kingdom governments:
Dust off your protest gear, Mother City. Another battle looms.
Picture: Twitter / @shellslies