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Waves of protest against oil giant to halt offshore drilling

File picture by Peter Olxa/Unsplash

Wildoceans, a programme of the Wildtrust, is one of several organisations including Oceans Not Oil, South Durban Community Environmental Association (SDCEA) and Green Connection, which have submitted comment opposing the proposed exploration drilling off SA’s southern coastline and associated activities by oil company TOTAL.

They have raised procedural, climatic, socio-economic and ecological concerns linked to the proposed activities set to take place in blocks 11B and 12B off South Africa’s oceans, just 175km off the southern coast. These blocks cover an area of 18,734 square kilometres, with water depths ranging from 200m in the north to 1,800m in the south.

In its comment, Wildoceans notes that at these ocean depths, typical methods of mitigation and rehabilitation which apply to terrestrial mining are close to impossible to achieve. This region contains some of the already diminishing coral reefs off South Africa (among other diverse ocean life), which are complex and fragile and respond negatively to pollutants and stress.

An organisation that advocates for increased marine protection backed by multiple research projects and campaigns, Wildoceans stresses that the proposed region for drilling and surveying overlaps with the migratory and distribution pathways of critically endangered marine species – such as the Leatherback and Hawkbill turtles; endangered species – such as the Scalloped and Great Hammerhead sharks, Loggerhead and Green turtles; vulnerable species – such as Manta rays, Raggedtooth and Whale sharks; and protected species (such as Tiger sharks, Black oyster catcher and Pilot whales. The area also lies in the migratory path of the economically significant sardine run.

Loggerhead turtles are listed as endangered.

Within this Agulhas Banks region, life has diversified and acclimatised uniquely, therefore critically endemic ecosystems are at risk of being exposed to not only the diffused pollution from the exploration process, but also to calamitous risk should an oil spill occur.

Devastating results

The region stretches on to an aquatic swath of environmentally significant areas such as the De Hoop Marine Component, Stilbaai Marine Reserve, Goukamma, Robberg and Tsitsikamma as well as the Agulhas Muds and Bank Complexes.

The whale shark is regarded as vulnerable. Picture: NOAA/Unsplash

Beyond the ecological concerns, Wildoceans warns that embarking on oil drilling ventures and affiliated activities leaves little adherence to the precautionary principle, with devastating results often being a by-product as we have recently seen with the devastating Mauritius oil spill. The precautionary principle is a widely endorsed environmental practice which safeguards human and environmental wellbeing.

Turning poachers into custodians

Literature and empirical data show that fossil fuel burning, and exploration is already contributing negatively to the climate and adversely impacting people’s lives.

The NPO also highlights the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (NCCAS) recently endorsed by the department of environment, forestry and fisheries (DEFF), and approved by parliament on August 18 2020, which mentions the need for climate smart national decisions.

– Copy provided by Wildoceans

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