Court stops Shell from Wild Coast exploration, for now

A court has barred Shell from going ahead with seismic blasting on the Wild Coast as part of its exploration for oil and gas.

The High Court in Makhanda on Tuesday ruled that Shell must halt its activities until a second part of an interdict is heard.

Communities in the Wild Coast lodged an application for an urgent interdict against Shell’s exploration. They are represented by the Legal Resources Centre and Richard Spoor Attorneys and are joined by two civil society organisations that work in the area.

The company has started a seismic survey off the coast between Morgans Bay and Port St Johns, which involves using airguns to send pulses of sound into water. The data collected from the sound waves bouncing back from the ocean floor will be used by scientists to determine or map out the presence of oil or gas reserves.

The area that will be covered is about 6,000km/square.

Concerned partied are worried that the seismic survey will interfere with marine life. Many marine animals use sound to navigate, find food, find mates or avoid predators. Seismic surveys have been shown to damage tissue in marine mammals, cause temporary hearing loss and stress in animals.

The application against Shell includes small-scale fishers from the Amadiba, Cwebe, Hobeni, port Saint Johns and Kei Mouth communities. The Legal Resources Centre said Shell consulted stakeholders in the commercial and recreational fishing sectors, but ignored small-scale fishing communities.

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