Tuesday, January 18

Shell seismic survey: new court hearing on Friday


  • Local and international experts have submitted affidavits in support of attempts to stop Shell’s seismic survey off the Wild Coast.
  • On Friday, the Makhanda High Court will hear the request for an injunction to stop the inquiry.
  • An earlier attempt to obtain an injunction failed earlier this month.
  • Applicants say the survey will destroy marine life.

Environmentalists and community groups have assembled an army of local and international marine science experts in their legal battle to stop Shell’s five-month seismic survey, part of its oil and gas exploration campaign, off the coast of the Eastern Cape. .

The urgent matter has been set for hearing in Makhanda High Court on Friday, December 17.

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Shell objects to the request, but has not yet submitted its documents, which will likely also include expert reports and affidavits.

Earlier this month, a similar request for injunction he was fired with costs.

Acting Makhanda High Court Judge Avinash Govindjee ruled that the submissions on the survey’s detrimental impact on the environment and marine life were “speculative at best” and the applicants had not shown an apprehension. reasonable irreparable damage.

In the upcoming court challenge, Reinford Sinegugu Zukulu, director of Sustaining the Wild Coast, and representatives of the Wild Coast communities have asked the court to allow them to admit affidavits from various experts who, they say, prove that the bombing of weapons from air, “which would be thrown into the sea every ten seconds for five months, stronger than a jet plane taking off,” would likely cause significant damage to marine animals. ”

Most of the experts cited in the documents agree that Shell’s 2013 Environmental Management Program (EMPr), which provided details of the seismic study and proposed mitigation measures, was completely out of date.

Dr. Douglas Nowacek, a US-based marine mammal acoustic and behavioral ecology expert, says in his affidavit that evidence collected since 2013 shows that exposure to unwanted sounds causes behavioral and physiological harm to marine mammals, including “chronic stress” which is of particular concern to marine mammals. endangered whale populations on the Wild Coast.

“Cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) will feel the noise in large areas of the ocean. It can induce a physiological stress response, disrupt essential biological behavior such as vocalizing, foraging, and mask acoustic communication, including communication between mothers and calves, ”he said.

“While the EMPr found that impacts ranged from negligible to low, these findings now contradict the recent scientific literature on impacts on species such as zooplankton, endangered African penguins and acoustically sensitive beaked whales.”

He said the proposed mitigation measures would be ineffective.

Marine scientists Drs. Jean Harris, Jennifer Olbers and Kendyl Wright, in their presentation, concluded that significant direct harm is most likely to occur to individual animals and endangered species.

Lynton Burger founded and was managing director until 2004 of Environmental Resource Management Southern Africa, the company that prepared the EMPr 2013. He alleges that the people who prepared the report appeared to lack professional training in marine science or the marine environment.

“The 2013 report is out of date. It is not industry best practice for consultants to endorse such an old EMPr … mitigation measures are inadequate because they focus on potential obsolete impacts, “he said.

Public consultation with interested and affected parties, which was already limited because a full environmental impact assessment was not conducted, was also out of date, Burger said.

Burger says Shell’s proposed mitigation measures were inadequate because they relied heavily on supposedly independent onboard observers, “that is, junior-level observers,” whose ability to detect cetaceans would be severely limited to fleeting appearances on the surface. Says there are no overnight mitigation plans.

Most important, he says, is that observers on board cannot monitor or mitigate the full impact on plankton, the building blocks of ocean ecosystems.

David Russell, a Namibia-based fisheries consultant, said he had followed Shell’s seismic studies for many years.

He said that during a seismic survey off the Namibian seas, which began in 2012, there was a “sudden drop in catches” that had a devastating economic impact on the albacore industry.

He said Shell should reach out to small-scale marine fishers whose livelihoods could be significantly affected if the fish were to leave due to the noise from the seismic survey.

Dr Alexander Claus Winkler, an expert on coastal fisheries, said that updated literature, technological advances and growing global concern about the subtle indirect effects of noise pollution on marine ecosystems revealed serious deficiencies in the EMPr.

The two legal bases for the injunction request are that there was a lack of significant consultation in the process, and that Shell had obtained its permit under the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Law and did not have environmental authorization under the strictest National Environmental Management. . Act.

© 2021 GroundUp. This article was published for the first time here.


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