Coast KZN

25 Nov 2021

Durbanites protest Shell’s Wild Coast seismic surveys

Thobile Zwane (Berea Mail) Picture: Protesters, including members of Oceans Not Oil and Youth4MPAs, marched through Durban today (November 25) to oppose Shell’s seismic surveys off the Wild Coast.

Protesters gathered with posters that read: ‘#ToHellWithShell’, ‘Save the Wildcoast’, ‘What you don’t know will kill you’, ‘Leave our oceans alone’, ‘No oils on our shores’ and ‘Stop the blast’.

Youth4MPA is a youth-led movement that has more than 378 ocean advocates across the African continent. The group’s lead convener, Armstrong Gumbi said, “We aim to promote the protection and conservation of South African oceans, create awareness about their importance, and foster the involvement of youth in crucial decision making when it comes to the ocean. We envision having a sustainable future where marine life and society benefit from a healthy ocean.”

Gumbo said they are deeply concerned about the upcoming seismic surveys set to take place along the Wildcoast, between Port St Johns and Morgans Bay in the Eastern Cape.

“Shell exploration involves blasting the seafloor with airguns that reach sound frequencies of up to 200 decibels every 10 seconds for 24 hours to detect oil and gas,” he said.

Youth4MPAs stood firmly alongside many environmental activist groups, non-governmental organisations and concerned citizens at the protest.

Gumbo said the organisation was fully against any and all oil and gas exploration on South Africa’s coastline.

Shell responds to protests across Durban:

“At Shell, we respect the right of everyone to express their point of view. We only ask that they do so with their safety and the safety of others in mind. We can confirm we are operating within our legal right and have met all our obligations concerning the survey,” said Shell’s public relations officer, Pam Ntaka.

Ntaka said the seismic acquisition is scheduled to start in December and will last for approximately four months.

“We are targeting a specific area (known as the survey area) within the Exploration License Area where they believe there may be potential oil or gas deposits beneath the surface of the ground. This is an exercise to collect data to help us understand if there is oil/gas or not. This is not a drilling exercise,” said Ntaka.

She explained that in order for Shell to provide the energy that the world needs today, Shell needed to ensure it has a strong project funnel and resilient future development opportunities.

“Shell is deeply committed to South Africa as an energy partner of choice and will continue to partner with government regarding our country’s Just Energy Transition,” said Ntaka.

When asked whether Shell has engaged with any of the affected communities of the environmental impact of the survey, Ntaka said a full stakeholder consultation process was undertaken as part of the development of the Environmental Management Programme (EMPr) for this project in 2013.

“An Environmental Compliance audit was undertaken in 2020 by independent specialists to confirm that the controls and mitigation measures outlined in the EMPr were still sufficient and valid. The audit report confirmed that these requirements were still sufficient and valid for this project to be taken forward. We can confirm we are operating within our legal right and we believe have met all our obligations concerning the survey,” she said.

Ntaka added that Shell has a long experience in collecting seismic data and the welfare of wildlife is a major factor in the stringent controls it uses as it strictly follows the international guidelines of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

“These are based on decades of global scientific research. We take great care to prevent or minimise impacts on fish, marine mammals and other wildlife,” added Ntaka.