Small-Scale Fishers From Around The Country Head To Saldanha Bay To Stand-Off Against Offshore Oil and Gas: “Our Ocean, Our Heritage! “
This week on 26 September 2022, small-scale fishers held a picket demonstration at Pepper Bay Saldanha. The group of about 50 fishers and supporting eco-justice and community-based organisations are opposing the (imminent) arrival of the Azinam oil rig, which is set to start offshore oil and gas exploration activities in the next days. Affected communities in Northern Cape are dissatisfied, saying that they were not adequately informed or consulted about the project. The fishers are also taking a symbolic stand against the French multinational oil and gas company Total, which has many projects on the go and in the pipeline, for South Africa’s oceans.
Fisherwoman with Coastal Links Saldanha Bay Carmelita Mostert says, “We are against gas and oil because water cannot mix with oil, and it is not a benefit for us as it will mess up our oceans. All that we want is a clean ocean to fish from as it is our livelihood and our custom. Our heritage. We have the right to protect our oceans and marine life so that we can continue to provide for our children and our communities from the harvest of the sea.”
The small-scale fishers were part of a national workshop – hosted by The Green Connection, together with members of small-scale fishing (SSF) co-operatives and civil society organisations – to discuss advocacy strategies to protect their livelihoods from oil and gas exploration. The Green Connection’s Community Outreach Coordinator Neville van Rooy says, “The purpose of the workshop is to bring small-scale fisher leaders and support organisations together, to discuss, learn, and share advice about how to further develop their collective vision for just ocean governance. We want to build solidarity for the strengthening of the small-scale fishing sector.”
Joining the workshop in Saldanha, as a representative of small-scale fishers in Knysna, Barend Fredericks says, “Oil and gas will destroy and pollute our marine ecosystems, and it contributes to climate change. We are concerned about how government and these companies explore the ocean because they do so without free, prior or informed consent from the indigenous fishers who rely on the ocean. As a small-scale fishing community, we propose that the relevant ministers start promoting more renewable energy, like solar panels and wind turbines. Oil and gas exploration will not reduce the unemployment rate because this requires specialised skills. As fishers we will depend on our indigenous rights and customary laws to make life better for ourselves as fishing is our livelihood. We say, stop the enslavement of the African continent! Let us build a better South Africa, together.”
According to several small-scale fishers, there are three key issues underpinning their opposition of offshore oil and gas. First and foremost is the need to protect the oceans and environment, which is essential to sustaining small-scale fisher livelihoods. Second is the desire to protect their heritage, which is at risk of being eroded to satisfy elitist interests. Third is the lack of transparency about
projects being proposed, which is often coupled with poor, inadequate public participation processes. The consequences of poor public participation processes were clearly demonstrated, this week, when The Green Connection raised the alarm to expose the fact that no project-specific oil spill contingency plan (OSCP) for the Azinam project has yet been made available to interested and affected parties, even though exploration drilling is imminent.
John Peter from Port Nolloth says, “There is no future for us and our children with fracking and oil and gas drilling. As small-scale fishers who depend on the oceans for our livelihoods, we are against it because it will not benefit us.”
Norton Dowries from Langebaan says, “I want to know from the Minister of Energy, which part of the situation does he not understand? Does he want to see our people dead? As small-scale fishers, we know the risks for us and the ocean that come from offshore oil and gas and this is why we will continue to fight it.”
Julie Danhausen from Knysna says, “We are here today because we are not happy about the oil and gas because it is dangerous for the livelihood of the community.”
Since multinational oil and gas companies are some of the main drivers of South Africa’s offshore oil and gas industry, The Green Connection has started reaching out to like-minded organisations abroad, as part of a global campaign to create widespread awareness of what countries in the north are doing in the south, while claiming to be committed to addressing climate change.
The Green Connection’s Strategic Lead Liziwe McDaid says, “Let us consider Total, for instance. How can it be that while the President of France is, on the one hand, calling for a collective framework (the Global Pact for the Environment), while at the same time, it is a French multinational oil and gas
company that wants to exploit South Africa’s oceans for climate change-causing fossil fuels? We believe that it is critical that the French people know that, while their President talks about decisively addressing climate change on the one hand, their countrymen are aiming to do quite the opposite here on the south side of the globe.”
Click the link below to sign The Green Connection’s petition to stop offshore oil and gas, as part of ithe Who Stole Our Oceans campaign – https://www.change.org/p/imagine-a-world-with-oiled-upbeaches-without-living-ocean-are-we-run