South African court halts Shell’s seismic tests for 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

A South African high court ruled on Tuesday that energy giant Royal Dutch Shell can’t continue seismic testing on South Africa’s Wild Coast.  

Shell wants to look for oil and gas in the area by blasting sound waves into the deep sea, but has gotten major backlash from national and international environmentalists who say the operation will threaten whales, dolphins, seals and penguins.

On December 3, Shell received approval from a different high court to begin the seismic survey off South Africa’s coast. A few days later, hundreds of people gathered along the coast of South Africa to protest Shell’s plans, holding signs that read ‘To hell with Shell’ and ‘Hands of our Wild Coast’.

Tuesday’s court ruling said that Shell did not have the necessary environmental approvals. “We respect the court’s decision and have paused the survey while we review the judgement,” a Shell spokesperson said.

Environmentalists have protested against Shell’s plans for seismic blasting, saying the sound waves will disturb the feeding and migration of sea life, especially whales.

Despite global efforts to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, South Africa’s energy minister has defended Shell’s plans.

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