Eastern Cape surfing journo David MacGregor wrote the below piece for the Daily Dispatch last week. David has admitted to being disheartened by the apparent apathy among many Saffa surfers on key enviro issues like this, while overseas, surfers are at the forefront of protests against 2D seismic surveys.
So, while massive petro-chemical companies shoot off sonic blasts in the ears of our marine friends, read the below post and get informed.
FEARS GROW FOR EASTERN CAPE MARINE LIFE
Seismic survey could pose a threat to sea animals – by David MacGregor
A controversial seismic survey of the ocean floor off the Eastern Cape for oil and gas reserves has begun despite fears they adversely affect already threatened marine resources.
The 450 000km² two dimensional survey is one of several taking place off the South African and Namibian coast that involves ships crisscrossing the ocean firing several loud airgun blasts at set intervals towards the seabed looking for fossil fuels.
Outlawed in several developed countries around the world, a recent report for the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) by Bayworld’s Dr Stephanie Plön and Renee Koper has called for South Africa to conduct its own systematic formal research on the effects of ocean noise on marine animals.
“[We] are concerned about the seismic explorations off our coastline as to date very few research projects have concentrated on the effects of such surveys on Southern Hemisphere species,” Plön said. She said the bulk of information came from research on northern hemisphere species.
According to Plön, very little is still known about hearing in most marine species, which could differ between species. “Ideally one should employ the ‘precautionary principle’ when approaching such issues and research should be conducted into the potential effects on local marine fauna prior to or alongside the surveys.” Fears were raised the surveys could have a negative impact on whale tourism and the fishing industry.
She said ocean noise pollution was a large concern in other parts of the world and was recently flagged at the last International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) meeting as an area of importance. IUCN supports scientific research, manages global field projects and brings governments, non-government organisations , United Nations agencies, companies and local communities together to develop and implement policy.
Plön said anthropogenic noise was a “hot topic” of Northern Hemisphere research as sound played a pivotal role in the lives of many marine mammal and fish species. “As seismic surveys are conducted by airguns, which basically fire off a loud sound at set intervals, this constitutes a possible disturbance.”
Phumla Ngesi of Petroleum Agency South Africa – which according to their website “promotes exploration for onshore and offshore oil and gas resources and their optimal development on behalf of government and regulates exploration and production activities” – yesterday confirmed the acquisition of seismic data had commenced.
Plön said seismic disturbance impacts could range from behavioural responses to physical damage of body tissues and temporary or permanent hearing loss.
“In my dealings with [local] industry I have encountered some resistance towards research into potential side effects of seismic surveys and marine construction – which is in contrast to many ventures overseas where industry and government together fund research into this.”
She said the seismic permits appeared to be in contrast to government’s initiatives towards a clean and green economy using alternative, environmentally sustainable energy resources.