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South Africans took to their beaches on Sunday to protest against plans by oil and gas company Shell to do seismic oil exploration they say will threaten marine wildlife such as whales, dolphins, seals and penguins on a pristine coastal stretch.
The Makhanda High Court on Friday struck down an application brought by environmentalists to stop the oil major exploring in the eastern seaboard’s Wild Coast, rejecting as unproven their argument that it would cause "irreparable harm" to the marine environment, especially migrating humpback whales.
The Wild Coast is home to some of the country’s most undisturbed wildlife refuges and is an important tourist draw.
At least 1,000 demonstrators gathered on a beach near Port Edward, a Reuters TV correspondent said.
On December 5 2021 Capetonians took to the Muizenberg beach in protest of Shell's plans to conduct seismic surveys on the Wild Coast.
Shell officials were not immediately available for comment, but the company said on Friday that its planned exploration has regulatory approval, and it will significantly contribute to South Africa's energy security if resources are found.
But local people fear the seismic blasting conducted over 6,000km2 will kill or scare away the fish they depend on to live.
"I don’t want them to operate here because if they do we won't be able to catch fish," said free-dive fisherwoman Toloza Mzobe. "What are we going to eat?"
Environmentalists are urging Shell and other oil companies to stop prospecting for oil, arguing that the world has no chance of reaching net-zero carbon by 2050 if existing oil deposits are used, let alone if new ones are found.
Earlier in 2021, a Dutch court ordered Shell to reduce its planet warming carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 from 2019 levels, a decision it plans to appeal.
The environment ministry referred Reuters to a statement late in November that "the minister responsible for environmental affairs is … not mandated to consider the application or to make a decision on the authorisation of the seismic survey".
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.