‘To hell with Shell’ South Africans protest against oil exploration

People standing at the beach holding signs with To Hell with Shell
Protestors carry a huge fish model as they demonstrate against Shell, Muizenberg beach in Cape Town, South Africa, December 5. 2021, photo: Reuters/Mike Hutchings

Hundreds of protestors gathered along the coast of South Africa on Sunday to protest against energy giant Royal Dutch Shell’s planned oil and gas exploration in the country.

Shell plans to create a 3D model of offshore oil and gas reserves by using sound waves created by compressed air blasts into the deep sea. Environmentalists say the operation will threaten whales, dolphins, seals and penguins.

At Muizenberg Beach in Cape Town, demonstrators held up signs that read ‘To hell with Shell’ and ‘Hands of our wild coast’. They carried a giant model snoek fish to express their concern about the impact of Shell’s project on sea life.

Protesters in the seaport city Gqeberha waved signs showing a Shell logo altered to look like a hand showing its middle finger. They called for a boycott of Shell’s gas stations.

“It’s actually just horrendous that they are even considering this. I mean if you look around, you look at these people, you look behind us, you look along the coast it’s unacceptable and it is not going to happen. We will stop it. Everybody will oppose this,” demonstrator Kas Wilson told news agency Reuters near Port Edward.

“I don’t think this is bringing any economy but just destruction. Here we can swim and do other things, but if Shell is coming here, I don’t think we’ll ever access this place,” fisherman Sicelo Dlamini said.

Ecologists say Shell’s plans to search for oil and gas deposits off the Wild Coast of eastern South Africa pose a danger to marine animals, especially to migrating humpback whales in the area.

They say the exploration technique of using sound waves could upset animals’ behaviour, feeding, reproduction and migration patterns, with many sea animals such as whales relying heavily on their sense of hearing.

On Friday, a South African high court rejected an urgent application brought by environmentalists, including Natural Justice, Greenpeace Africa and fishermen, to stop Shell’s exploration.

“In a time when all accepted science points towards us not using fossil fuels anymore…I find it puzzling that these new ‘colonisers’ feel justified in moving their unwanted activities to Africa,” said Alan Straton, a sailor and member of the Ocean Stewards development project.

The Wild Coast includes several nature reserves and protected marine areas stretching along some 300 kilometres (190 miles) of unspoiled Indian Ocean shoreline.

Shell plans to spend four to five months exploring the region over an area of 6,000 square kilometres. “We take great care to prevent or minimise impacts on fish, marine mammals and other wildlife,” a Shell representative told news agency AFP two weeks ago.

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