South Africa: Small-scale Fishers Celebrate Victory Against Oil Exploration on West Coast

Humpback whales. PHOTO: Vivek Kumar on Unsplash

A South African high court has halted a seismic oil exploration project along South Africa’s West Coast. Small-scale fishers and an organization, We are South Africans, filed an application to stop the project and prevent irreparable harm to marine life and local livelihoods and heritage. Last week, the company announced that due to the court ruling, it will abandon operations!
The court ruled that the company did not take proper steps to consult the impacted community members and fishers. It issued limited notifications in English and Afrikaans but did not convene any meetings or issue notices in isiXhosa, the language of the Xhosa. The applicants, represented by Legal Resources Centre (LRC), successfully showed that this did not meet the legal requirements for consultation.
ELAW partner Angela Andrews, a South African attorney who collaborated with the LRC on this case, thanked ELAW for helping show that the company’s claims of using best practice seismic technology to minimize harm to marine species, especially whales, were untrue.
“This is a major victory for these communities, whose lives are intertwined with the ocean,” says Angela. “Their culture and heritage are rooted in their relationship with the ocean, and many are reliant on fishing for their livelihoods. This judgment gives us hope that communities can take a stand to defend their traditions and chart a sustainable future.”
We are pleased to see this judgment, which will help protect marine mammals and fisheries along South Africa’s coast and keep fossil fuels in the ground.
For more information, please see:
Daily Maverick. March 2, 2022
Searcher to leave South Africa immediately after court prohibits seismic survey
News24. March 2, 2022
Searcher to ‘abandon’ West Coast seismic survey after high court ruling
Daily Maverick. March 1, 2022
Victory for small-scale fishers after high court interdicts Searcher Geodata’s West Coast seismic survey

Mark Chernaik
Staff Scientist
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide