Large- and small-scale fishers and communities on the Wild Coast of South Africa request that, at the very least, more scientific research be done on the effects of exploration activities, and that various stakeholders undertake greater engagement about such activities to gain a better understanding of any potential impacts of the activities.

This was the message conveyed by community leaders who came together at the second precolloquium dialogue on August 25 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre to discuss the possible “coexistence of the upstream petroleum and fishing industries in South Africa”.

The dialogue was jointly hosted by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), and the Petroleum Agency of South Africa (Pasa).

A joint statement by various community and environmental organisations describes the engagement as an attempt to “pacify and weaken” the clear message small-scale fishing communities have been sending to the DMRE and Pasa against the “pillaging” of their coastal waters.

“Oil and gas development and fishing activities cannot coexist,” reads the statement, which is endorsed by the Masifundise Development Trust, One Ocean Hub, The Green Connection, the Coastal Justice Network, KwaZulu-Natal Subsistence Fisherfolks, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, and the SA Fishers Collective.

The community and environmental organisations further state that the dialogue is an attempt by the DMRE and Pasa to make oil and gas exploration “palatable” to fishing communities, and is “deeply concerning and deceptive”.

Those concerned about the impacts of seismic surveys worry about the immediate, short- and long-term effects the noises could have on the marine environment.