Judge Temporarily Halts Seismic Survey off South Africa’s West Coast

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  • The Western Cape High Court has temporarily halted a seismic survey off the West Coast currently conducted by Australian geoscience data supplier vessel, Searcher pending a hearing on 7 March 2022.
  • Searcher had commenced with the seismic survey on 24 January 2022.
  • Judge Daniel Thulare granted the interim interdict at a hearing this morning in Cape Town.

West Coast fisheries and residents as well as civil society organisation, We Are South Africans (WASA), filed an urgent court application last month to interdict the survey. Read more

The applicants claim that the reconnaissance permit granted to searcher by Petroleum Agency South Africa (PASA) in May 2021 was unlawful and want it to be reviewed and set aside by the court. The applicants argue that Searcher was also obliged to consult with interested and affected communities  when it applied for the permit – but failed to do so.

The applicants also claim that Searcher has not obtained environmental authorisation as required.

In 2D seismic surveying both the blast and sound detectors (numbering up to a hundred or more per charger) are moved along a straight line. In 3D seismic surveying the sound detectors (numbering up to a thousand or more) are spread out over an area and the blast is moved from location to location through the area. Seismic testing involves sending regular “blasts” under water in short sequence to create a map of the surface and sub-surface.

The noise generated can reach 250 decibels as the sound waves generated by the blast penetrate the seabed. In comparison, the loudest whale noises range between 140 and 190 decibels.

This sound is proven in multiple peer-reviewed research papers to disturb, scare and alter marine life such as separating whales and their calves. This affects the endangered African Penguin, two subspecies of Blue Whales, the Antarctic Blue Whale and the Pygmy Blue Whale, the protected Southern Right Whales, Bryde’s Whales, Loggerhead Sea Turtles, Orcas and multiple Shark species all found along the Western Cape coast.

Searcher had failed to submit answering affidavits ahead of the hearing of Part A this morning. Searcher has agreed to file their papers on 9 February and applicants will file replying affidavits on 25 February. Each of the parties will file heads of argument ahead of the hearing on 7 March 2022.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal


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