Vocal and visual protests to Shell blasting off Wild Coast

More than 80,000 signatures on petition objecting to fuel giant’s proposed air-gun exploration

A huge message in the sand for miner Shell which starts seismic blasting on the Wild Coast on December 1, evoking fury over expected massive marine ecosystem damage and die-off. It was made by Dean Knox of Jonginenge and Kevin Harris of Save Nahoon and passersby who got stuck in.
A huge message in the sand for miner Shell which starts seismic blasting on the Wild Coast on December 1, evoking fury over expected massive marine ecosystem damage and die-off. It was made by Dean Knox of Jonginenge and Kevin Harris of Save Nahoon and passersby who got stuck in.
Image: RICHARD WARREN-SMITH

The Wild and East Coast from Buffalo City Metro to Coffee Bay came alive at the weekend with protests against the 3D seismic blasting off the Wild Coast on December 1.

Coastal groups came out with scathing and colourful banners and chants on Saturday against the continuous 230-decibel air-gun blasting every 10 seconds of Wild Coast marine life by mega-corporation Shell’s hired gas-and-oil hunter, the Amazon Warrior.

By 11am on Sunday 81,000 people had petitioned the minister of forestry, fisheries and the environment Barbara Creecy on site Change.org stating that they objected to both the Wild Coast and Gqeberha-St Francis exploration areas being subjected to blasting which would damage or destroy all marine life.

Attorney Ricky Stone of Cullinan & Associates said they were “acting for numerous affected parties and clients to seek legal recourse against Shell’s planned 3D seismic surveys”. More details would follow. 

On the beaches, protesters demanded that Creecy withdraw the environmental authorisation handed too easily and without much research to Shell by the department of minerals and energy,  described in one media report as the fox in charge of the hen house.

Creecy was asked to respond and her spokesperson Albi Modise confirmed receipt but did not indicate if there was to be a further comment after Friday’s statement in which Creecy said her department was “not involved in any aspect” of the decision-making “including environmental impacts” around the granting of approval for the seismic survey and further gas and oil exploration.

All powers of approval rested with minerals and energy and were “binding until set aside on review by court”, Creecy said.

This position drew a chorus of outrage, from  200 demonstrators at Nahoon Reef in East London, Rainbow Valley, Chintsa and Coffee Bay who chanted, as dogs barked: “No more blasting!” and “Save the Wild Coast”.

Jonginenge Eco-Adventure teacher Dean Knox, his surfboard painted boldly with a protest message, said it was outrageous that Creecy — a teacher by profession — could abandon her post as custodian of the environment and commit this and future generations to a life of hell under Shell.

He said the entire Wild Coast region, which was rich with marine life, should be declared a marine protected area and should be allowed to develop as a tourism and educational area, rather than the “short-termism” of blasting and drilling for oil.

“There will be no jobs for anyone. Jobs will go to people trained elsewhere and they will stay out at sea,” he said.

“Shell would leave the Wild Coast in a state of devastation. He and others urged the public to boycott Shell.

The protesters ranged from legendary Nahoon Reef surfers Gordon Harmer, Roy Raffin and Mike Schroeter, leader of the Wild Women trail runners Kim van Kets, and prominent EL Open Water Swimmers led by Joy Roach, Gail Wild and Marie-Claire Hand, and had a strong showing of teenagers, all with banners and posters. 

The Artwork at the Reef protest included life-size cut-outs of whales and dolphins, a banner of a turtle stating “Please don’t. We beg you. Only our shells belong, not you”.

Messages read: “Don’t be Shell-fish”, “We don’t need your exploration”, “Save our oceans, save our future”, “Leave fossil fuels in the ground”, “For the voice you don’t understand” with a picture of a whale, “To Hell with Shell”, “I want my kids to be able to experience the Wild Coast one day” from a teen, and “Trespassers will be prosecuted” with a painting of a shark and full mouth of sharp teeth.

On Chintsa beach, protesters held placards stating: “Thou Shelt not”, “Hey Shell, don’t blast our shell-life”, “Frack off big Oil”, “Net zero (emissions) 2050?? We demand nature-based solutions now”, “Hands off our coast” and “Protect our coast”.

One grey-bearded man, dressed up as Neptune, pointed an accusing finger.

At Coffee Bay banners read: “No to Shell”, “Save our sea”, and “Stop Shell”.

Van Kets told the crowd that they were marathon runners who would be up for the fight to get the oil giant away from the Wild Coast.

Turning on the Amazon Warrior survey ship, which reaches Cape Town next week from West Africa, she said: “We are warriors too!”

Chintsa Green Coast leader Mike Dennison said seismic “activity” was damaging to ocean ecosystems.

Without any knowledge of the scale of destruction “practice should follow nothing but the precautionary principle”. 

A collapse of marine resources would be “in all likelihood” irreversible.

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