Environmental activists during the Shell protest on December 5, 2021, which successfully halted seismic testing off the Wild Coast. Photo: Ronelski Rei.

Seismic testing sparks national uproar: Plett Environment Forum and locals demand immediate halt

Posted in News by Anchen Coetzee on 29 November, 2023 at 6:59 p.m.

In a decision that has sent shockwaves through the environmental community, seismic testing has been given the green light off the coast of Plettenberg Bay (Plett) and extending all the way to Port Elizabeth/Gqeberha. The approval for this seismic testing was granted by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy and is set to be executed by CGG, a UK-based company.  

This contentious move, slated to commence in January 2024, threatens to disrupt the serenity of the ocean and wreak havoc on its delicate ecosystems. It spans over 12,000 square kilometres and poses a grave threat as it also intersects with critical whale migratory routes.

The magnitude of this endeavour is staggering: seismic blasts, occurring every few seconds, will reverberate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for an agonising five months. These deafening blasts, audible for thousands of kilometres, will have dire consequences for the ocean's inhabitants. Whales, known for their melodious songs, will be silenced, while fish will be left deafened and disoriented. The smallest but most vital players in this ecosystem, plankton, are not spared either, as they face a catastrophic die-off.

iOlogue Media's sister publication, Africa InTouch News, recently spoke to several locals, documenting their strong opposition and unwavering determination to stop this project immediately.

Kerese Thom, the owner of La Cafétéria, a boujee coffee shop and café eatery just a few steps from the beach in Plettenberg Bay, is not happy about the decision. She said their business depends on international and domestic tourism to Plett.

"Our clients come to view whales, enjoy our pristine coastline and beautiful beaches. This seismic testing alone, not to mention the actual hydraulic fracturing (drilling), will completely destroy the whale migratory routes as well as other marine wildlife in our bay,"

Given that Plett is a major tourist attraction town, she continued: "This will adversely affect businesses like mine that depend on tourism.”

Thom emphasised that the whale-watching industry, along with the local fishing sector that supports both fishermen and the broader hospitality industry, faces devastating consequences, profoundly impacting employment prospects.

Another local, the artist Ronelski Rei, didn't hold back when it came to expressing her concerns. She was candid, pointing out that the decision appeared to be all about money and sounded alarm bells about the potential consequences – not only for marine life but also for the unspoiled beauty of Plettenberg Bay (Plett).

In a heartfelt plea, Rei urged the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy to think beyond the immediate gains. "Our foremost priority should always be the well-being of those who can't fend for themselves and ensuring we leave behind a healthy environment for future generations," she emphasised.

Rei also shared personal stories, like one time at Plett's beach when a young seal swam up to her. She said that experiences like these profoundly touched her heart and that she would carry them with her forever.

"I'll also never forget the day we protested against Shell when a whole school of dolphins, about 50 of them, swam right past the environmental protesters," she recalled. "It felt like they were saying 'thank you' in their own beautiful way. It's a memory etched in my heart; a truly divine moment. Have those involved in this decision ever witnessed the breathtaking beauty of a whale giving birth?" she questioned passionately. "It's disheartening to realise that these decision-makers can look in the mirror and not realise that they've lost all compassion for sea life, the voiceless."

Another concerned citizen, Lize van Rooyen, shared her heartfelt perspective on this pressing issue: "As a Plett local, I am both outraged and heartbroken by the recent developments. It's deeply disheartening that seismic testing can be approved without public comment, leaving our community voiceless in crucial decisions that impact our home,”

"Seismic testing is not just a matter of environmental concern," she stressed. "It's a cruel practice that should not be allowed to disrupt the delicate balance of our coastal ecosystem. Our ocean life is a precious treasure that deserves our protection."

Van Rooyen's passion for the cause is palpable as she continues, "But it's not only the marine life we must defend; it's also the livelihoods of those who depend on fishing along our coastlines. These are our neighbours and friends, and their well-being is at stake."

Van Rooyen's heartfelt message echoes the sentiments of many locals, highlighting their determination to protect the environment that defines their way of life. In her closing words, she affirms the unwavering commitment of the local community: "Environmental justice is something we will continue to fight for. Together, we stand united to safeguard the beauty and vitality of our coastal home for generations to come."

There is, however, a glimmer of hope and a narrow window for action. Concerned citizens and environmental activists have 20 days from November 23, 2023, to lodge an appeal. Plett Environment Forum is spearheading a formal appeal, and here's how you can join the fight: 

  • Write an appeal: Detailed information and necessary forms can be obtained through email;
  • Sign the petition: Add your voice to the growing chorus of opposition by signing the petition and share it far and wide;
  • Get Involved Locally: If you're in Plett, consider participating in local activities like Ocean Awareness Day info stands, community film screenings, and peaceful protests. Keep an eye on the WhatsApp group for updates;
  • Follow the Plett Environment Forum;
  • Spread the word: Share information about this imminent threat with your network and on social media. Amplify the message to garner support.
"Time is of the essence, and the ocean's cry needs advocates right now. A united front against this seismic testing project is necessary if we are to protect our coastlines and the marine species that call it home. This journalist pleads for unity and solidarity in the ongoing battle in Plettenberg Bay, believing with all her heart that victory is possible if we all join forces." - Anchen Coetzee.


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