On Monday after “incredibly tense” court arguments, the Western Cape High Court ruled that the ban – originally issued on 7 February – on Searcher’s seismic blasting of the west and south-west coast of South Africa, stays in place.
Foreign companies Searcher Geodata UK Limited and Searcher Seismic (Australia) challenged the earlier interim order directing it to discontinue any activities related to the seismic survey.
This ‘interim’ interim interdict is supposed to be in place until the next court date, 24 February (moved up from 7 March) when the merits of the interim interdict would be argued and to decide if the ban will remain in place until the outcome of the review proceedings.
The Green Connection’s Strategic Lead Liziwe McDaid says, “We are extremely pleased with the outcome at court, today. The ban against Searcher remains. We are happy that the law was once again on the side of the small-scale fishers who are fighting for their right, not only to sustain but also to decide their own livelihoods. For The Green Connection, the issue is simple. Development is not progress if it threatens or endangers our rich, yet delicate marine ecosystems or if it risks dismantling thousands of livelihoods that have been established over many generations.”
A number of small-scale fishers held a picket outside court calling for an end to government’s drive to pursue harmful offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling, which inevitably includes seismic testing. They believe that development, through an ocean’s economy, should have fisher folk at its heart.
Small-scale fisher woman from Langebaan Coastal Links (and an applicant in the case) Solene Smith says, “We are so happy that the court has kept the ban against Searcher. We do not want them here in our waters because oil and gas companies from the United Kingdom and Australia could be a risk. We think about the disasters and poor treatment of vulnerable and indigenous peoples around the world. Maybe this is how Searcher treats indigenous communities in its own countries, but South Africa’s Constitution protects us from any such abuses, and we will always rely on this, the highest law in our land. From what I can see, Searcher does not care about us. They only about losing money.”
Christian Adams, a small-scale fisher from Steenberg Cove in the West Coast and member of the South African Small-Scale Fishers Collective (SASSFC), is also an applicant in the case. Adams says, “2022 is supposed to be the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture as declared by the UN Food and Agriculture Council. However, we do not see or hear any support for the small-scale fisher from our government. There was no support for us from the President during his State of the Nation Address (SONA), even as small-scale fishers continue to be threatened by decisions taken by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE). Even the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE) – we get no support from them. But, just like the Shell debacle, the Searcher case is unifying small-scale fishers and indigenous peoples who have been marginalised in this country for too long. Today has been a good day, the law is on our side.”
Fisher woman and Chair of Coastal Links Saldanha (and an applicant) Carmelita Mostert says, “It is very telling that Searcher cannot confirm that it had consulted any of the affected communities when it applied for a permit to conduct seismic blasting in these seas that sustain us. Searcher did not give us any notice that it intended to start blasting, much less did they consult with us. We are very happy with the court outcome, today. Let us continue to fight together and show them how important our oceans for us and our families. Amandla Abalobi!”