The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) has issued a letter of demand to suspend the commencement of seismic blasting on the West Coast on behalf of a number of fishing communities from that region. This case comes after Shell was interdicted from their seismic survey in the Eastern Cape, Wild Coast.

The letter has been sent to Searcher Seismic, the minister of energy as well as the minister of the environment.

Searcher Seismic, an Australian-based geoscience company, was granted with a reconnaissance permit by the Petroleum Agency SA (PASA) in May last year. This permit allows the holder to undertake geological, geophysical or photogeological surveys and is valid for a year.

West Coast fishing communities are deeply concerned about the impact seismic activities will have on the natural marine resources which is the source of their livelihoods. Small-scale fishers depend on the ocean for a living and the negative impact of seismic surveys will threaten their ability to fish and therefore, to put food on the table.

When asked about the impact a seismic survey will have on coastal communities, Solene Smith, Coastal Links leader from Langebaan, said, “Yes, I understand but the rest of the community, they don’t know what will happen. The people who are catching snoek complain about the sonar sounds and the snoek move further away. It is a real no-go.”  

The letter of demand to Searcher Seismic states not to go ahead with the survey pending a legal challenge of its permit,

“The company did not properly consult with affected parties as part of the permit application and the environmental authorisation process. In the absence of a valid environmental authorisation and Permit, Searcher’s activities and operations pursuant to the Permit are unlawful.”

In the event that Searcher fails to provide such a responsibility, an urgent application in the High Court will be filed “to interdict Searcher from conducting any activities pursuant to and in terms of the unlawful.”

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