Shell’s search for oil off the coast of South Africa will harm whales

Dolphins in blue ocean
Dolphins swimming, photo: werdepate via Canva

A petition to stop multinational company Shell from looking for gas and oil along South Africa’s Wild Coast region has been signed almost 150,000 times. 

The search will harm whales, dolphins, seals, penguins, sharks and even crabs and tiny shellfish, environmentalists say.

Shell will start a seismic survey on the first of December. That means firing extremely loud shock wave emissions that penetrate through 3km of water and 40km into the Earth’s crust below the seabed, the petition, started by environmental group Oceans Not Oil, said.

The exploration is expected to last between four and five months. The Wild Coast is a 300-kilometre (185-miles) stretch of unspoiled nature along the Indian Ocean.

The survey will create a 3D model of possible offshore energy reserves, using sound waves produced by blasts of compressed air, a Shell representative told AFP. The sound waves reflect off the ocean floor so that scientists can decode what lies underneath.

Environmentalists say the sound waves will disturb the feeding and migration of sea life, especially whales and other animals that rely on their own sound waves to navigate the ocean.

The Shell representative said that the company takes “great care to prevent or minimise impacts on fish, marine mammals and other wildlife”.

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