8 April, 2013 8 April, 2013

SA’s fish stocks at risk due to seismic surveys warns Norwegian fisherman

Former Kommetjie local (now living in Florida, USA) Cheyne Cottrell blasts a coldwater air in Norway, where local fisherman complain about the diminished fish stocks following seismic surveys off their coast.

Former Kommetjie local (now living in Florida, USA) Cheyne Cottrell blasts a cold water air in Norway, where local fisherman complain about the diminished fish stocks following seismic surveys off their coast.

What do the Eastern Cape and Norwegian coast have in common besides hosting some world-class waves?

Well, for one they’ve both been blasted by seismic surveys conducted by petroleum agencies in the hopes of finding marine oil and gas reserves. The difference is that the Eastern Cape has only undergone one batch of seismic surveys (completed about two weeks ago, with further surveys planned for the near future), while the Norwegian coast is still suffering from their extensive surveys that took place over a few years starting in 2006.

Eastern Cape surfer and Daily Dispatch journalist David MacGregor has been on the story from the beginning, we published an article of his in February (read here), in which he investigates some of the potential dangers the seismic surveys posed to our marine life. Today’s Daily Dispatch features the below exclusive by David, in which a 60 year-old Norwegian fisherman gives fair warning to the local fishing industry about the loss of fish reserves that can be expected following the Eastern Cape’s on-going seismic surveys.


Seismic Surveys Threaten East Coast – by David MacGregor


Norwegian fisherman Bjørnar Nicolaisen has warned SA’s fishing industry about the negative effects of seismic surveys, which are currently on-going in Eastern Cape waters.

A 60 year-old Norwegian fisherman has warned that the controversial seismic surveys for marine oil and gas reserves off the Eastern Cape coast could seriously impact the local fishing industry for years to come.

Trade union leader Bjørnar Nicolaisen sent the Dispatch a report by Norwegian fishermen detailing how ongoing seismic surveys over three years decimated marine resources resulting in significant drops in the amount of fish caught.

The first batch of seismic surveys of more than 450 000 square kilometres of Eastern Cape waters came to an end almost two weeks ago according to Phumla Ngesi of the South African petroleum agency.

She said oil and gas experts were assessing the data before deciding what to do next.

“No date has been communicated to the Agency, but all interested and affected parties get informed before any surveys commence on site,” she said.

The Eastern Cape survey area is just the tip of the iceberg as the entire South African coastline and neighbouring countries have also been earmarked for similar tests.

According to Nicolaisen, the years-long surveys of Norway – which involved ships criss-crossing the ocean and firing high powered airgun blasts at the ocean floor every few seconds – resulted in radically reduced catches and killed fish that could not escape the noise.

“It was a disaster for fisheries and what happened to other kinds of marine life we can only speculate, but indications may point to a disaster in the marine environment too.”

The specially designed survey vessels tow two or more cables up to eight kilometres long and fire high powered blasts into hundreds of metres of water, through seven to nine kilometres of rock looking for underground gas and oil.

“One of the proven effects of seismic shootings is that the shock waves have a startling effect on fish within 18 nautical miles (34 kilometers),” he said.

“The other documented effect is that the pressure from the airguns kill fish residing close to the cables.”

A graphic explaining how seismic surveys are conducted.

A graphic explaining how seismic surveys are conducted.

He said although there was no evidence of how much bio mass a seismic survey may kill, fishermen believed it was large scale.

Nicolaisen, who is secretary of the Andoey Fiskarlag fishers union said more than 75 fishermen did a lot of research work over the past five years documenting the effects of seismic surveys on the industry and written up a report of their experiences. .

“This is the first time a report on this issue has been made by a group of professionals in constant contact with the environment above, on and under the surface, and because of this we claim to be the best expertise.

He said: “we still suffer from that (seismic surveys) experiment”.

In 2006 the Norwegian parliament decided to open the breeding banks in nothern Norway for “pre-surveys” similar to those being conducted on the South African coast.

They have since stopped and Nicolaisen has campaigned on TV and YouTube ever since against seismic surveys.

[view part I of Bjørnar’s interview here]

Reacting to Nicolaisen’s claims Border Deep Sea Angling environmental officer John Rance recently told the Dispatch: “Environmental activists should stop wasting time on sideshows and tackle the real issues.”

He said it was terrible methods used to explore for and produce finite unsustainable resources damaged the only truly sustainable resources which mankind has available.

“The illogical and evil thing about this is that people are constantly being harrassed about relatively minor environmental issues, whilst the big companies and government interests do infinitely more damage to the environment.”


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