Cape Town residents to protest against Shell's offshore exploration plan

20 November 2021 - 12:13
Shell's announcement that it will conduct a seismic survey along the Wild Coast has drawn outrage from the public
Shell's announcement that it will conduct a seismic survey along the Wild Coast has drawn outrage from the public
Image: Oceans Not Oil

Cape Town residents will hit the beach on Sunday in protest against Shell's offshore exploration plan along the Wild Coast.

The multinational last week 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 and is the organiser of the silent protest beach walk from Muizenberg beach to Kalk Bay harbour.

It 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 1-million direct jobs.

“The vessel operated by Shell Exploration and Production SA’s hirelings, Shearwater GeoServices, will, for five months, drag up to 48 air guns methodically through 6,011km² of ocean surface, firing extremely loud shock wave emissions that penetrate through 3km of water and 40km into the Earth’s crust below the seabed,” Oceans Not Oil said in a statement.

“Many sea creatures could be affected in the coming months — whales, dolphins, seals, penguins, sharks and even crabs and tiny shellfish will be blasted.

“At a time when world leaders are making promises and decisions to step away from fossil fuels ... Operation Phakisa is pushing ever harder to get its hands on a local supply of gas.”

More than 136,000 people have signed Oceans Not Oil's petition calling on forestry, fisheries & the environment minister Barbara Creecy to withdraw approval of Shell's application.

Shell told the Sunday Times last week 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 was 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.”

Shell said it adopted stringent controls and followed international best practice from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee guidelines for conducting seismic operations.

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