KZN oil exploration threat to livelihood and coastline: Fisherfolk

File: Seven permits have been granted to conduct seismic surveys along the KZN coast for the exploration for oil and gas. Photo: AFP / Jean Liou

DURBAN – Tens of thousands of KwaZulu-Natal fishermen believe they could lose their livelihoods after permission was granted for offshore exploration for oil and gas.

The Petroleum Agency of South Africa (Pasa) has granted permission for seismic drilling tests to take place along the east coast.

But for fisherfolk such as Jonathan, the move would be disastrous.

"Well fishing is basically everything to me when it comes to my livelihood because I've got two kids, (one) just 14-years of age and the (other) is seven years of age. I practically grew them up on the fishing income,"

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Oxford is another of the tens of thousands of fisherfolk who are deeply concerned about plans to search for oil and gas along the KwaZulu-Natal coast.

"We've got children here as fishermen and that's like taking the food out of our kids mouths," he said describing the move.

Seven permits have been granted to conduct seismic surveys along the KZN coast. The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance strongly opposes the move.

It says the noise created by the surveys will lead to beached whales and drive fish away, potentially destroying the livelihoods of 30,000 KZN fishermen, 12,000 of whom are in Durban.  

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"The campaign is to put a stop to oil and gas exploration---we are working with other groups all over the world, including Nigeria. The intention is to make sure that our fish species is protected and our coastline is protected.”

“We have a wonderful beach, wonderful coastline. Even in winter people can fish warm waters in Durban and swim in warm waters. And we don't want our coastline to be devastated like what happened in the Gulf of Mexico, in Nigeria, currently the oil has devastated the coastline,” said Desmond D’sa   of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance.

Pasa says environmental impact assessments indicated the potential impact of the surveys would be relatively low. It claims it's never received complaints from the fishing community, but plans to investigate.

"The report and the assessment that we have received from the applicants and then we will also take into consideration the concerns and the objections that we have actually received from the fishermen, and then we will consolidate those particular inputs. And then write the recommendation for the minister to consider,” Chief Executive at  Pasa Lindiwe Mekwe said.

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