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Story Update: Concerns That Searcher Ignored Yesterday’s Court Order To Halt Seismic Blasting

Story Update: Concerns That Searcher Ignored Yesterday’s Court Order To Halt Seismic Blasting

The Green Connection and the small-scale fishers who recently took Searcher Geodata to court are outraged that the Australian company’s vessel still appeared to continue its operations, even after Monday’s (7 February) court order. The interim interim interdict ordered Searcher to “discontinue any activities intended to give effect to or related to the seismic survey of the west and south-west coast of South Africa,” until the interim interdict has been argued on 7 March.

However, from available evidence from Marine Tracker and other sources, all signs pointed very strongly that Searcher had possibly continued with its blasting operations into today (Tuesday 8 February). These signs include the fact that the vessel is still travelling along the traverse lines, which is the predetermined route that was submitted as part of their Environmental Management Programme (EMPr). Then, the vessel still seems to be operating under a status of “restricted manoeuvrability,” which requires it to stay on that predetermined course, which is normal when conducting seismic surveys. Furthermore, the vessel is travelling very slowly (between 4-6 knots), as required for seismic operations, and its support vessel is also still trailing the main vessel.

Civil society organizations victory towards court action results to halt seismic surveys on the West coast 

Neville van Rooy says, “It was another nail-biting day for the small-scale fishers today because Searcher’s legal team were not forthcoming with an unequivocal and clear written confirmation that its vessels had in fact stopped all related activities. It was only when our lawyers sent them a letter of contempt, that they responded. And from what we can gather, the vessels are headed to international waters, where seemingly no-one has jurisdiction. This really is a blatant show of bad faith from the Australian company.”

A number of small-scale fishers who are applicants in the court case – Christian Adams, Solene Smith and Carmelita Mostert – agree, “Should it be found that Searcher had ignored the court order, we must force our government to act decisively and severely punish them. If indeed they continue seismic operations after the court ordered it to stop, this foreign company exposes its disrespect not only for South Africa’s judicial system, but also for the local people. However, we take comfort in knowing that the law is on our side and that our legal team will do their best to ensure that the people get the justice they deserve.”

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