New bid to challenge Shell seismic survey

Johannesburg – Shell’s victory against an urgent court interdict by a group of environmental activists could be short-lived if another urgent court interdict by a different group of environmental activists succeeds.

The interdict was lodged on the eve of the Friday court ruling that gave Shell the green light to carry out its seismic study from this month.

The urgent application has been brought by at least seven interest parties, including members of Wild Coast communities.


The parties include Sustaining the Wild Coast, a non-profit organisation that works to promote sustainable livelihoods  that construct, rehabilitate and protect the natural environment on the Wild Coast. Sustaining the Wild Coast is joined by traditional healer Mashona Wetu Dlamini, who is based at Sigidi village in Umgungundlovu, which forms part of the Amadiba traditional community.

Dlamini acts in the interests of protecting the environment on behalf of traditional healers along the Wild Coast and for Umgungundlovu community.

Another party to this litigation is the Dwesa-Cwebe Communal Property Association, which is the successful land claimants through the Restitution of Land Rights Act No 22 of 1994.

A Port St Johns fisherman named Ntsindiso Nongcavu has also joined the urgent interdict on behalf of his fellow Wild Coast fishers.

The failed interdict to stop Shell from blasting the Eastern Cape Wild Coast was lodged by the Border Deep Sea Angling Association, the Kei Mouth Ski Boat Club, Natural Justice and environmental movement Greenpeace.

They acted after Shell issued a notice late in October that its entity Shell Exploration and Production South Africa intended to commence with a 3D seismic survey in the Transkei exploration area off the East Coast of South Africa from the start of this month.


On Friday, Grahamstown High Court acting judge Avinash Govindjee dismissed the application with costs.

As with the failed interdict, the new application argues that the seismic study will cause significant harm not only to the environment, but also to communities’ livelihoods, culture and heritage.

The new interdict application differs from the first one in that its parties argue that the seismic study will not only be harmful, but is also unlawful because Shell only has rights under the Minerals and Petroleum Act, but not environmental authorisation to conduct the exploration under the National Environmental Management Act.

They argue that the incredible sound of blasting between 220 and 250 decibels is louder than a jet plane taking off and will be heard underwater more than 100km  away.

They say this will be a threat to marine life including whales, dolphins, the Wild Coast famous kingfish.

It is also a threat to the economy of the coastal communities that are dependent on fishing for livelihood and incomes.

These communities say fish forms part of their daily diet, while the traditional healers say that they use the sea water and sand in some of their healing rituals.

Shell is also accused of seeking  profits through oil and gas while worsening the planet’s climate crisis.

Judge Govindjee said in his ruling they failed to convince the court that there was a well-grounded apprehension of irreparable harm to the marine environment if the interim relief they sought was not granted.

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