Shell’s Wild Coast exploration draws mounting public ire - The Mail & Guardian

Shell SA chair surprised by the scale of opposition to its planned 3D seismic survey

2021-11-26 10:45:00 PM

Shell’s Wild Coast exploration draws mounting public ire: Shell SA chair surprised by the scale of opposition to its planned 3D seismic survey

Shell SA chair surprised by the scale of opposition to its planned 3D seismic survey

“Operation Phakisa’sgas and oil exploration and extraction are contrary to the Paris Agreement in that the oil extraction targets, if realised, will dramatically increase emissions; and the IUCN resolution … urging all members of the IUCN to facilitate the adoption of the precautionary principle with respect to deep-sea mining and to support and implement a moratorium on deep seabed mining.”

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‘We did consult widely’According to Shell, its planned seismic survey is under an approved environmental management programme (EMPr), which has undergone public consultation as part of the 2013 EMPr process undertaken in terms of the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act and as part of the 2020 EMPr compliance audit process undertaken in terms of the environmental impact assessment regulations 2014.

“We believe we’ve consulted widely and enough and that we have followed all the guidelines of public participation of stakeholders of this nature requires and we’ve met those,” Mtolo said.But, Mbuthuma responded: “It’s strange because as people who are living along the coast, I haven’t heard any of the public consultation. There has not even been one public hearing but yet we are living here for centuries … These days, I fully understand what consultation means to the government. They always invite only so-called business people and then at the end of day they say ‘we consulted communities’. But consultation is about affected communities.” headtopics.com

Disruptions to marine ecosystemsSeismic surveys, Wessa said, disrupt and potentially destroy healthy marine ecosystems.  “Seismic activity affects marine species in a variety of ways that jeopardise their survival. Noise pollution and shock waves lead to stress, disorientation, embolisms and tissue damage, larvae deformity and species displacement. These have been recorded across all levels of the marine ecosystem. 

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“While some attention, albeit inadequate, has been paid to whales and dolphins, an ecosystems approach to the protection of our marine resources has not been properly adopted. For example, zooplankton is critical to both the health and the productivity of our marine ecosystems.” 

Marine fauna use sound for many functionsIn a March 2021articleon seismic surveys and their effects on marine life, Jean Purdon, who is completing her PhD at the University of Pretoria, focusing on acoustic pollution in the marine environment, described how marine fauna use sound for many functions.

“For example, dolphins and toothed whales can acoustically ‘visualise’ their surroundings and locate food through echolocation, baleen whales communicate with each other through calls that travel long distances, while some fish and invertebrates use sound to attract mates and ward off predators.  headtopics.com

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“Given the importance of sound to these animals, we can begin to get a picture of how seismic surveys could affect them. Seismic surveys can result in animals either losing their hearing completely … or temporarily. They have also been shown to cause the death of zooplankton, krill and some fish species.”

This in turn, she wrote, has an effect on ocean productivity, decreasing food supplies for many marine animals. Seismic surveys can also result in disorientation of deep-diving toothed whales, causing them to swim up to the surface very fast. “Because of the pressure that these animals are subjected to deep in the ocean, nitrogen gas bubbles develop in their bloodstream if they rise to the surface too quickly — in the same way that human divers get the bends’ — and this may result in whale deaths or mass strandings.

Loud shots every 10 secondsSeismic surveys produce loud shots every 10 seconds and can continue for months at a time, resulting in prolonged effects on marine life. “Low-frequency seismic pulses cause large baleen whales to start avoiding the area and their communication may decrease or increase, signifying elevated stress levels. Stress could similarly affect foraging success and the ability to produce offspring in other animals.”

A study on critically endangered African penguins breeding on Bird Island and St Croix Island in Algoa Bay showed that seismic surveys less than 100km away caused the penguins to divert from their primary foraging areas. “Some seismic surveys have occurred 25km away from Bird Island, which is worrisome as this could severely affect their foraging ability and reproduction in the future, especially during the breeding season when the adults stay closer to the islands to care for their chicks.” headtopics.com

Negative effects on entire ecosystemSeismic surveys typically operate 24 hours a day in South African waters, and it is likely that the continual loud banging has a negative effect on the entire ecosystem, although this is very hard to measure and monitor, she wrote. Companies conducting these surveys are legally obliged to obtain an environmental management plan (EMP) from an independent company that is registered to conduct EMPs, which provide guidelines on how best to reduce the environmental impact.

The EMP usually states that the survey vessel must have marine mammal observers (MMOs) on duty during the day and passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) operators on duty during the day and night. “The MMOs keep a visual lookout for marine fauna using binoculars, while the PAM operators use a hydrophone connected to a computer to monitor whale and dolphin calls. The EMP also stipulates rules and regulations on how the airguns should be started to help protect marine fauna. 

“The MMO and PAM operators check that the airguns start ‘firing’ slowly so that the noise causes any animals in the area to move away. In addition, the MMOs and PAM operators are required to monitor a mitigation zone, usually 500m in diameter. If they see or hear any animals within this zone, they are required to advise the seismic survey company to stop the airguns until the animals have left the zone.”

More research neededFor many years, Purdon was an MMO and PAM operator, which led her to continue to research noise pollution in South Africa’s oceans. “However, I realise that oil and gas are essential in our everyday lives — to travel, to heat, to cool, to manufacture, even to brush our teeth with plastic toothbrushes,” she wrote.

“The oil and gas industry itself is huge, and many people’s livelihoods depend on it. The renewable energy industry is developing rapidly, but wind and solar power is still not produced at a rate that is required for our planet of over seven billion people. I found that the crews on seismic survey vessels are also concerned about and care for the welfare of marine life, and they do try to adhere to the suggestions and recommendations made by the MMOs and PAM operators. 

She wrote how she felt it is important for her to work closely with this industry to “try to mesh the need for oil and gas with the need to conserve our ocean environment”. “It is clear that more research needs to be conducted to fully understand the impacts of sound on marine organisms, so we can protect and safeguard South Africa’s ocean life for future generations.”

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I shall not fill my vehicles with Shell!!!! profitbeforenature voetsekShell No more Shell fuel for me. Go invade somewhere else. Shell shellslies My company's cars will not be filling up at any Shell Garage ever again if you go ahead with the blasting off the wild coast in SA. That's a promise I can keep. Greenpeace CNN cnnbrk londonnews SABreakingNews News24 SkyNewsBreak

In case you haven’t already He underestimated the extent to which people are prepared to publicly display ignorance. How about Hloniphizwe Mtolo answers the Nigerian oil spill debacle and the years of denial by Shell untill the courts now called them to order? I’m boycotting shell. We can do that for our oceans. Why cant we do the same for our lives? VoetsekANC

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Shell’s Wild Coast exploration draws mounting public ire - The Mail & GuardianShell’s Wild Coast exploration draws mounting public ire - Shell SA chair surprised by the scale of opposition to its planned 3D seismic survey Boycott Shell and disinvest. Hloniphizwe Mtolo is talking rubbish when he says Shell has done all it can to mitigate any damage. Shell only just recently bought the company that obtained approval in 2013. Much has changed since then.

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Shell’s Wild Coast exploration draws mounting public ire - The Mail & GuardianShell’s Wild Coast exploration draws mounting public ire - Shell SA chair surprised by the scale of opposition to its planned 3D seismic survey Boycott Shell and disinvest. Hloniphizwe Mtolo is talking rubbish when he says Shell has done all it can to mitigate any damage. Shell only just recently bought the company that obtained approval in 2013. Much has changed since then.