South Africans took to their beaches Sunday to protest against Royal Dutch Shell’s plans to drill for oil, which they say will threaten marine wildlife such as whales, dolphins, seals and penguins along a stretch of unspoiled coastline.
A South African court on Friday dismissed an application by environmentalists to stop the oil company from drilling off the Wild Coast on the eastern seaboard, rejecting as unproven their argument that it would cause “irreparable harm” to the marine environment, especially to migrating humpback whales.
The Wild Coast is home to some of the country’s most undisturbed wildlife refuges, and its stunning coastal wilderness is also a major tourist attraction.
At least 1,000 protesters gathered on a beach near Port Edward, as seen by a Reuters TV correspondent.
“It’s absolutely horrendous that they would even consider this. Look around you…,” protester Kas Wilson said, pointing to a stretch of pristine beach. “It’s unacceptable and …. we will stop it.”
Shell officials were not immediately available for comment, but the company said Friday that its exploration project has the approval of authorities, and will contribute significantly to South Africa’s energy security if resources are found.
But local people fear that seismic blasting carried out over 6,000 square kilometers will kill or drive away the fish they depend on for a living.
“I don’t want them to operate here because, if they do, we won’t be able to fish,” said freediver Toloza Mzobe, 62, after pulling a wild lobster out of the ground. “What are we going to eat?”
Environmentalists are urging Shell and other oil companies to stop drilling for oil, arguing that the world has no chance of reaching net-zero carbon by 2050 if existing oil deposits are burned, let alone if new ones are found.
Earlier this year, a Dutch court ordered Shell to reduce its planet-warming carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 from 2019 levels, a decision it plans to appeal.
The South African environment ministry referred Reuters to a statement late last month saying that “the minister responsible for environmental affairs has no mandate to consider the application or to make a decision on the authorization of the seismic survey.”