SMALL-SCALE FISHERS CALL FOR MORATORIUM ON ALL OFFSHORE OIL AND GAS EXPLORATION PROJECTS

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The Green Connection
The Green Connection
On Sunday 23 January 2022, as public hearings on the Gas Amendment Bill (held from 17-23 January) continued in Saldanha, numerous small-scale fishers from Western and Eastern Cape held a nationwide protest demanding more protection for our oceans and for the livelihoods of coastal communities. Infuriated fishers and environmental activists, who have been campaigning against offshore oil and gas drilling, are calling on the Department of Mineral Resource and Energy (DMRE) to suspend all offshore oil and gas exploration projects.

Protest action in Saldanha
Protest action in Saldanha
At the hearings, fishers and activists requested that government revise the Bill according to their proposals for a just transition to renewable energy, reiterating that offshore fossil fuels are not a solution to the intensifying climate crisis. In addition, they have witnessed how livelihoods are being damaged in other parts of the world such as the Niger Delta, which continues to be destroyed due to oil leakages.
Small-scale fisher and Coastal Links member from Port St Johns Nandipha Nogiwna says that she is against offshore oil and gas as it will destroy nature and the oceans, which they and many other coastal communities depend on for survival. She adds, “If the government continues with its offshore oil and gas plans, our chances of survival as small-scale fishers are slim, the environment will be degraded, and this will affect our livelihoods.”
The reality is that if the government supports more offshore fossil fuel extraction, coastal communities will continue to face threats to the ocean and their livelihoods. While a group of small-scale fishers – in partnership with environmental organisations – may have successfully stopped Royal Dutch Shell from conducting seismic surveys on the Wild Coast, resulting from a flawed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Australian company Searcher Geodata recently started seismic blasting off the West Coast.
Solene Smith, another small-scale fisherwoman from Langebaan Coastal Links says, “The ocean means everything to us. Our children are raised to become fishers. My husband groomed my son to be the skilled fisherman that he is today. We have love for the ocean. This is where we connect with our forefathers, many of whom were lost at sea. It is part of our identity and our heritage. We want our youth to continue with our legacy and customary rights.”
Another small-scale fisher from Coastal Links Port St Johns Ntsindiso Nongcavu says that they do not want seismic surveys. He says that before such decisions are made, the government should consider people’s livelihoods as well as the marine ecosystem. He says, “This is why it is so important that community voices are heard because those of us who live by and depend on the ocean, we will be affected most if oil and gas exploration go wild in our oceans. This is something our government must not ignore.”
It is quite poignant that last month marked World Environmental Education month, as subsistence fishers and activists from the Northern, Western and Eastern Cape continue to educate themselves about their environmental and socio-economic rights, in a bid to protect themselves from injustices perpetuated by extractive industries. However, they also hope that more people, especially those in decision-making positions within industry and government, will learn about the value of a healthy environment and ocean and that it is worth conserving. This change of attitude towards nature will also be better for their overall health and wellbeing, as well as their livelihoods. 
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