East London residents braved the rain last Sunday to stand in solidarity at the Nahoon Lifesavers Shack and protest Shell’s ongoing seismic blasting of the Wild Coast.
Shell has employed the Shearwater GeoServices ship Amazon Warrior to travel up the Wild Coast delivering sonic blasts of over 250 decibels into the ocean in order to detect potential oil and gas reserves.
The decision has received intense backlash from communities, businesses and even members of the scientific community.
Sunday’s protest was one of many similar gatherings that took place nationwide over the weekend.
Speaking to the East London participants, Dean Knox said protesters shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Shell was just one of the many possible dangers the Wild Coast faced.
“It [the Wild Coast] should be a World Heritage Site [WHS], that’s what we should be campaigning for,” Knox said.
“Shell is not the last threat there will be. They’re one of the threats, and these threats will keep coming.”
According to UNESCO, the organisation responsible for allocating WHS status, a site must meet at least one of ten possible criteria to qualify.
Four of these relate to biodiversity, and Knox said the Wild Coast easily qualified in that area.
“It is a transition zone. We have a warm ocean current – the Agulhas current – flowing down the coast. Just inside of that we have a cold band of water, particularly in winter, that extends up the coast,” he said.
These conditions have led to a large variety of marine life, said Knox, which are on full display during the famous annual Sardine Run.
One argument raised by supporters of Shell’s surveying is that if oil and gas is discovered, this could lead to a number of jobs being created.
“The questions that were asked of me by the [SABC] reporters were ‘What about the jobs that will be created’. The people who are going to get jobs from the seismic blasting or from the oil rigs are going to be highly skilled people from other parts of the world. They will be flown onto the oil rigs on helicopters.
“It’s not going to benefit people on the coastline.”
Knox said that rather than relying on extractive industries for jobs, government should instead focus on sustainable employment linked to a green economy.
“A big ugly oil rig that after 10 to 15 years of extraction is just left rotting in the sea is not going to give us jobs.”
He also said that the burden of proof should be on Shell to prove that the seismic blasting won’t be damaging to the environment rather than the other way around.
“They [the government] has a responsibility to look after this coastline for present and future generations. It’s unbelievable that they will now be making decisions that go against that.”