On Sunday 23 January, the public hearing for the Gas Amendment Bill took place in Saldanha Bay, West Coast.

The portfolio committee on mineral resources began their nationwide public participation hearings on the Gas amendment Bill of 2001 early January in Peddie, Eastern Cape.

The Gas Amendment Bill aims to enhance the regulatory framework for the gas industry and promote black economic empowerment. It also aims to facilitate the development of the gas infrastructure by encouraging private sector participation and investment.

Small-scale fishers (SSF) from the Eastern Cape and now from the West Coast have rejected these hearings and are not in favour of the bill.

The small-scale fishing community of Saldanha Bay have voiced their major concerns around the impact of oil and gas seismic surveys if it persists on the South African coastline.

The impact of the blasting will move fish away from their traditional grounds. Fish will migrate to deeper waters where SSF are not permitted to fish.

Fishing is a part of small-scale fishers’ livelihoods. If they go after the fish in deeper waters, not only do they risk losing their permits and being heavily fined, they risk their lives going out to dangerous waters. Sailing further out to sea also results in giving out more petrol for the boats which means they lose out on a lot of money.

The failure of government to alert communities well before the hearings is why the fishing community rejects the public hearing of the Gas Bill. Local fishers who were present at the meeting indicated that they were reading the draft of the Bill for the first time on that day.