Locals to join nationwide protest against Shell

Hout Bay Beach will be the venue for Hout Bay locals to protest and have their say against the seismic testing scheduled to be conducted by Shell along the Wild Coast.

Shell’s proposal to conduct seismic testing off the Wild Coast has sent a wave of concern through the public, and on Sunday December 5, Hout Bay will join the planned nationwide protest, organised by various environmental and wildlife groups.

Cala Couzen, operations manager at Sentinel Oceans Alliance, based at Hout Bay Beach, explained that Shell planned to conduct the seismic survey along the Wild Coast for the next five months, as they search for oil and gas.

“The implications of this survey are too big to fully comprehend. Our wildlife and ecosystems are at a massive risk of being destroyed as well as the grave impacts this will have on indigenous peoples, local communities, their livelihoods, heritage and right to self-determination,” she said.

Former pro surfer Frank Solomon is one of the founders at Sentinel Ocean Alliance. He also helps to train underprivileged children in ocean safety skills and to find future employment as lifeguards.

Mr Solomon called on Cape Town to show their support towards the cause, “before it’s too late”.

“Even if it means we have to strap ourselves to the boat to raise our concerns, we will go ahead and do that, but we simply have to speak up,” he said.

Former environmentalist, Margoret Holland, who recently moved to Hout Bay, said it would be “catastrophic” for Cape Town’s marine life to endure these surveys.

“The companies always say that it causes no harm, but how is that possible when you are blasting something into an area where there are living creatures?” Ms Holland asked.

“Let’s not wake up too late and then we sit with a beautiful ocean with no life in it because it was destroyed by Shell,” she added.

The seismic survey, which will be carried out by global seismic services provider Shearwater GeoServices, involves using air guns to send pulses of sound into water. The information collected from the sound waves bouncing back from the ocean floor will be used by scientists to determine or map out the presence of oil or gas reserves.

Environmental activists and concerned citizens are worried that the seismic survey will interfere with marine life, many of which using sound to navigate, detect food, find mates or avoid predators. Seismic surveys are believed to be the main cause behind tissue damage in marine mammals and causes temporary hearing loss as well as stress in animals.

While initially only commenting that the seismic surveys had been approved by the relevant authorities, Shell spokesperson Pam Ntaka said the company was “aware of the growing concerns and calls for protests and we acknowledge all the different views”.

Ms Couzens called on residents of Hout Bay and surrounds to “speak up against Shell and our government”.

“There will be a nationwide protest at 54 locations across our coastline. This is our time to speak up in numbers and take action. We would love for each and every one of you to use this opportunity to rally your networks and join us on Hout Bay Beach,“ she said.

Protesters will start gathering at the beach from noon on Sunday December 5 with The Bateleurs, a non-profit community of wildlife and bush pilots, doing fly-bys at all of the locations countrywide.