Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

South Africa Shell

A giant marionette of a snoek, a type of common local mackerel, is displayed during a December 5, 2021 protest in Cape Town against a plan by Dutch oil company Shell to conduct underwater seismic surveys along South Africa's East coast. (Photo: Rodger Bosch/AFP via Getty Images)

'We Won't Stop Fighting,' Vow South African Activists After Judge OKs Shell Seismic Blasting at Sea

"We must do everything we can to undo the destructive colonial legacy of extractivism, until we live in a world where people and the planet come before the profits of toxic fossil fuel companies."

Brett Wilkins

South African activists on Monday vowed to keep fighting after a court ruling allowing fossil fuel giant Shell to proceed with massive underwater explosions off the ecologically sensitive Wild Coast, a move environmentalists say would cause "irreparable harm" to marine life.

"Our ancestors' blood was spilled protecting our land and sea, and we now feel a sense of duty to protect it for future generations."

"We won't stop fighting," tweeted Greenpeace Africa following Sunday's nationwide protests. "Shell must immediately stop oil and gas exploration off S.A.'s Wild Coast."

Demonstrators from more than 30 organizations—including, Clean Seas, Extinction Rebellion, The Green Connection, Greenpeace Africa, Oceans Not Oil, and Sea The Bigger Picture—turned out for over 70 protests nationwide, according to The Cape Argus.

At Surfers Corner at Muizenberg Beach in Cape Town, activists carried a giant marionette of a snoek, a snake mackerel found in area waters, and held placards with slogans including "Stop killing our coast" and "To hell with Shell."

"The purpose of this protest is to send a message to Shell bosses and shareholders to stop the company from carrying out the seismic survey on the Wild Coast," the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) said in a statement.

"Offshore oil and gas drilling... has the potential to destroy our beautiful ocean heritage as well as negatively affect... the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on the ocean for a living, like the fisherfolk, tourism and recreational industry," the alliance added.

On Friday, Makanda High Court Acting Judge Avinash Govindjee rejected a bid by four plaintiffs including local fishers and Greenpeace Africa to stop planned seismic blasting along the coast, ruling that their claims of "irreparable harm" to wildlife—especially migrating humpback whales—were "speculative at best."

In seismic surveys, barrages of powerful sonic pulses are blasted into the ocean floor with airguns; the reflected sound waves are then analyzed to map the seabed for potential oil and gas reserves. The blasts reach more than 250 decibels and kill, injure, and terrorize marine life.

Reinford Sinegugu Zukulu, director of the advocacy group Sustaining the Wild Coast, told the court that the blasting would occur every 10 seconds for five months, would be "louder than a jet plane taking off," and would be heard underwater for more than 60 miles.

Elaine Mills, a representative of Greenpeace volunteers in Cape Town, told The Cape Argus that the potential destruction "is beyond belief. Really, it's unimaginable."

"The harm that [the blasting] can do to marine life is permanent hearing loss, organ rupture as dolphins and whales breach too fast to escape the auditory onslaught, and beach strandings," she added.

Shell claimed in a statement that it had "long experience in collecting offshore seismic data" and that "the welfare of wildlife is a major factor in the stringent controls we use."

Mills accused Shell of failing to adequately consult the public about the planned blasting.

"They did not consult the fishing and coastal communities who stand to suffer huge economic losses as a result of Shell destroying the marine heritage," she said.

Last week, Shell announced that it would halt plans to drill for oil in the Cambo field off the coast of Scotland's Shetland Islands following a grassroots campaign against the project. Activists are seeking a similar outcome in South Africa, and a new urgent application to stop the seismic blasting has been filed by environmental groups, local Indigenous leaders and fishers in Port St. Johns.

"We will continue to support the nationwide resistance against Shell and pursue the legal avenue to stop Shell," said Greenpeace Africa senior campaigner Happy Khambule. "We must do everything we can to undo the destructive colonial legacy of extractivism, until we live in a world where people and the planet come before the profits of toxic fossil fuel companies."

Zukulu of Sustaining the Wild Coast said the region "is a place of stunning natural beauty. Indigenous people have maintained continued possession of this land, despite waves of colonial and apartheid aggression."

"Our ancestors' blood was spilled protecting our land and sea," he added, "and we now feel a sense of duty to protect it for future generations."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

UN Chief Urges Global Solidarity on Covid, Climate, and Debt Relief

"The last two years have demonstrated a simple but brutal truth, if we leave anyone behind, in the end, we leave everyone behind," said the secretary-general at the opening of the virtual Davos summit.

Jessica Corbett ·

Sinema's MLK Day Tweet Sparks Online Fury

One group criticized the Democratic senator from Arizona as "the white moderate MLK warned us about."

Andrea Germanos ·

Why Did Democratic AG Kill Flint Water RICO Case?

"Political corruption poisoned Flint and political corruption shielded the wrongdoers from accountability," said one critic following new revelations.

Kenny Stancil ·

Progressives Counter Cherry-Picked Quotes With MLK's True Legacy

Calling out those who have "weaponized" his words "to justify legislated white supremacy," Rep. Ayanna Pressley said King "was a radical dreamer with a bold vision for revolutionary change."

Jessica Corbett ·

'No Celebration Without Legislation': King Family Leads Voting Rights March

"I will not accept empty promises in pursuit of my father's dream," said Martin Luther King III.

Andrea Germanos ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo