The High Court in Cape Town has granted an urgent interdict to fishermen against seismic exploration on the west and southwest coast of South Africa.
Fourteen fishermen applied for the interdict saying they have not been meaningfully consulted. Australian geoscience company Searcher, which started with the blasting on the 25th of January, has been ordered to stop until the case has been heard.
The area stretches from the Namibian border and Cape Agulhas, an area of about 297 square meters. This is three times the size of Limpopo province, as the lawyer representing the fishermen put it in context. Searcher is currently blasting for oil and gas.
Other license holders on the land include PetroSA, Total and Shell. Searcher has from the 25th of January, commenced with the seismic operation.
Video: West Coast communities fight back against seismic survey [ 23 January 2022]
Advocate Thembeka Ngcukaitobi, arguing for the 14 fishermen, told the court that once blasting starts, fish will disappear for good. Leaving those who live on snoek on those shores without food on the table.
Outside court, Christian Adams, who is the first applicant of the 14, agrees.
“We have never been consulted by our government whether we want this seismic operation. We as the users of the ocean, what do we think about these things and secondly because we do not know what the effect of this will be on the marine life. We feel like our livelihood may be destroyed because of the seismic surveys and therefore we are opposed,” says Adams.
A Permit to explore was granted on the 18th of May 2021, by the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy.
The community and local NGO’s agree that there’s been no consultation.
The Department of Minerals and Energy is the first respondent, followed by the Department of Fisheries and Forestry. But it was Searchers and their vessel, who are third and fourth respondents. who argued in court without success, that they will move their blasting operation further into the ocean at about 58 kilometres, instead of stopping exploration altogether.
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Judge Daniel Thulare in granting the urgent interdict said the applicants are suggesting interference with the habitation of indigenous species that threaten livelihood for the communities that live off the sea.
The case will be back in court on the 7th of March.