Nica Richards
Deputy online news editor
3 minute read
7 Jan 2022
3:14 pm

Activists suiting up for another interdict, as west coast seismic survey brews

Nica Richards

We Are South Africans plans to bring an urgent interdict against Australia-based Searcher Seismic.

2D and 3D seismic surveys will run from the Namibian border, past Cape Town and as far as Cape Agulhas. Photo: iStock

As South Africa waves goodbye to the Amazon Warrior vessel, the ship which briefly carried out Shell’s 3D seismic survey along South Africa’s east coast, another survey is due to start in the Western Cape. 

According to a petition shared by Vuma Earth, the survey, to be conducted by Australia-based Searcher Seismic from 15 January, was given the go-ahead after the Petroleum Agency of South Africa granted a Reconnaissance Permit on 9 November last year. 

The survey is planned to be conducted by the M/V BGP Pioneer vessel, supported by the M/V Marianne-G, and will do a “source array and one streamer cable, extending up to 12km long”, 8 metres below the ocean’s surface. 

Seismic Searcher will conduct both 2D and 3D seismic surveys. 

ALSO READ: Shell seismic survey prompts boycotts and protests

A 2D survey involves airguns moving along a straight line, whereas 3D surveys result in airgun array blasting being more spread out. 

Airguns produce loud, repetitive blasts as often as every 10 seconds, at up to 250 decibels. 

Activists suiting up for another interdict as west coast seismic survey brews
What a typical airgun array used in seismic surveys looks like. Photo: PGS

The fight is on 

During Shell’s December 2021 3D seismic survey, a second urgent interdict, brought by the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), Sustaining the Wild Coast and the Dwesa-Cwebe Communal Property Association, proved successful.

Civil society movement We Are South Africans (Wasa) is leading the charge in terms of an interdict being brought against Searcher Seismic. 

Wasa founder Gilbert Martin explained to The Citizen the reason for their interdict is the effects the surveys will have on the marine environment, “as recorded in multiple peer-researched studies”. 

“There [are] ecological and environmental consequences on multiple endangered marine animals, such as the Southern Right Whale and African Penguin, and we cannot understand how the Environmental Assessment was considered.” 

ALSO READ: UPDATE: Interdict against Shell’s seismic survey successful

Martin also said South Africans would not benefit from the surveys, “as the investors are mainly from foreign companies with local politically-connected companies being used”. 

Activists suiting up for another interdict as west coast seismic survey brews
How seismic surveys affect marine life. Source: Oceana

Secondly, Martin said Wasa felt there was “something amiss” regarding the granting of the Reconnaissance Permit, “as [was] the situation with the Wild Coast and Shell where communities were not actually consulted”. 

He said the only way his organisation was made aware of the latest batch of surveys was through one of Wasa’s members sending the Mariners notice. 

“No one would have known any other way because there was not one single article anywhere on the global internet about this.

“…Ministers make unilateral decisions and these decisions do not involve the South African people in decision making, there is no transparent public participation process.” 

Martin warned the explorations would affect the Western Cape’s tourism and fishing industries in “catastrophic” fashion. 

Can all surveys, forever

Martin says Wasa’s goal is to have all seismic surveys, current, past, and future, stopped. 

The organisation also wants an audit, and a public oversight committee put in place, to create a new process for public participation that is easier to understand and includes “real South Africans”. 

ALSO READ: EXPLAINER: What’s the fuss about Shell’s seismic survey?

“We have the support of many organisations in the background, locally and internationally. Our name will be on the court documents, but as our name states, ‘We are South Africans’ – we represent the people of South Africa, 15 million of them that we reach.

“We are all saying that we have had enough of this attack on our collective futures.”

The Citizen reached out to the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), who said the relevant officials whom information has to be sourced from are still on leave.

DMRE media relations and content manager Ernest Mulibana committed to responses being sent next week.

Mulibana however said the matter was being attended to.