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Government notes concerns around Shell seismic survey

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment has noted concerns about the forthcoming seismic survey to be conducted by Shell and Impact Africa Limited off the coast of South Africa.

“The impact of the seismic survey, to be undertaken by Shell and Impact Africa, has been authorised under the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MRPDA), which under section 39(2) of the Act requires the submission of an environmental management plan which is to assess and evaluate the environmental impacts of the activity,” the department said on Monday.

The Minister of Minerals Resources and Energy is the Minister responsible for the administration of the MPRDA.

The department said, therefore, 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.

“It should be noted that since the coming into effect of the One Environment System on 8 December 2014, the application process for the seismic survey was finalised. All decisions made under the MPRDA at the time remain valid and binding, until set aside by a court of law,” the department said.

The seismic survey is expected to be conducted between December 2021 and February 2022.

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According to the Ocean Warriors Wild Coast, the survey will cover a 6 000 km2 area from 20 km off the coast in water depths of 700m to 3000m from Port St Johns to Morgan’s Bay and continue for four to five months.

Thereafter the survey will continue offshore from Gqeberha to Plettenberg Bay, for a further 5 months.

The Ship, named the Amazon Warrior, will drag up to 48 military-grade seismic “cannons” (euphemistically dubbed “air gun arrays”), that will fire loud shock-wave emissions every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, for the 10 month period of the survey.

The shock wave emissions are projectiles of highly-pressurised air – called shockwave balls, and have the potential to maim or kill animals close by and disrupt communication and breeding of countless species large and tiny because each “bullet” can produce lethal level sounds of up to 255 decibels.