WILDOCEANS is one of several organisations including Oceans Not Oil, South Durban Community Environmental Association and Green Connection, who have submitted comment opposing the proposed offshore exploration drilling and associated activities by oil company TOTAL.
There are procedural, climatic, socio-economic and ecological concerns that WILDOCEANS have raised linked to the proposed activities set to take place in blocks 11B and 12B of South Africa’s oceans, just 175 kilometers off the southern coast.
These blocks cover an area of 18,734 square kilometers with water depths ranging from 200 meters in the north to 1,800 meters in the south.
A program of the WILDTRUST, WILDOCEANS noted that at these ocean depths, typical methods of mitigation and rehabilitation which apply to terrestrial mining are close to impossible to achieve.
An organisation that advocates for increased marine protection backed by multiple research projects and campaigns, WILDOCEANS stresses that the proposed region for drilling and surveying overlaps with the migratory and distribution pathways of:
- critically endangered marine species like the leatherback and hawksbill turtles
- endangered species like the scalloped and great hammerhead sharks, loggerhead and green turtles
- vulnerable species like manta rays, sand tiger and whale sharks
- protected species like tiger sharks, black oystercatcher and pilot whales
The area also lies in the migratory path of the economically significant sardine run.
Within this Agulhas Bank region, life has diversified and acclimated uniquely to the intrepid waters, therefore critically endemic ecosystems are at risk of being exposed to not only the diffused pollution from the exploration process, but also to calamitous risk should an oil spill occur.
The region stretches on to an aquatic swath of environmentally significant areas such as the De Hoop Marine Protected Area, Stilbaai Marine Reserve, Goukamma Nature Reserve, Robberg Nature Reserve, Tsitsikamma National Park and Agulhas Mud.
Beyond the ecological concerns, WILDOCEANS warns that embarking on oil drilling ventures and affiliated activities leaves little adherence to the precautionary principle, with devastating results often being a by-product as we have recently seen with the devastating Mauritius oil spill. The precautionary principle is a widely endorsed environmental practice which safeguards human and environmental wellbeing.
Literature and empirical data show that fossil fuel burning, and exploration is already contributing negatively to the climate and adversely impacting people’s lives.
The NPO also highlights the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy recently endorsed by the Department of the Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, and approved by parliament last week, which mentions the need for climate smart national decisions, of which exploration drilling is not.