Whales at risk?

2013-10-02 00:00

WHALES may be more likely to beach on the North Coast if a proposed sound wave seismic survey to explore for oil and gas reserves offshore gets the go-ahead.

French company CGG Services has recently applied for a permit to undertake further exploration for oil and gas along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline, including off the North Coast shore. A massive area of about 80 000 square kilometres of ocean will be scoped.

The scoping involves firing sound waves using an air gun to create a geographical profile of the seabed — where resources may reside — making impact assessments necessary.

Local environmentalist Simon Bundy said the sounding will “unmistakably” have an effect on sea life.

“It is definitely a concern; a lot of research is being done about this overseas at the moment and a recent report showed this sort of activity has been directly related to whales beaching themselves,” said Bundy.

He said many marine animals communicate using sound, which travels faster under water.

The artificial sounds used to scope could well interfere with communication within and between species.

He said as one of the largest deposits of gas has been found in northern Mozambique, there could well be resources locally. “I think it would be very deep here and would require high tech, modern technology to find and mine.

“We are not likely to be able to stop them, but the sounding is not harmless and is something to be managed,” said Bundy.

An application for a reconnaissance permit has been submitted to the Petroleum Agency of South Africa, which has been accepted.

Environmental consultants for the project say no approval has been granted yet.

CCA Environmental’s consultant Eloise Costandius said other seismic surveys have been conducted in the area recently, and the permit is for a second round.

Specialist environmental studies on the potential impact of the proposed survey activities on marine fauna and the fishing industry are being undertaken as part of the process.

The findings of these studies will be incorporated in the environmental management plan to be done by CCA Environmental, which will be distributed for a 30-day comment period once completed. “We, however, do not have any information on the results of the previous surveys yet,” she said.

Should all go according to plan, the four-month exploration will begin in March 2014.

CGG is exploring the seabed on behalf of Sasol Petroleum International as well as Singapore company Silver Wave Energy group.

The permit application document showed that the proposed seismic survey would be undertaken in water depths of between roughly 500 and 2 500 metres and beyond 25 km from the coast.

Another company, Impact Africa, had applied in February this year to undergo the same explorations in the Tugela North area.

Group title the Fever was told that exploration for oil and gas had been done four times off the KZN coast in the past, with nothing being found yet.

Environmental NPO CoastWatch said they will be responding to whatever documentation is provided for public participation to keep involved in the process.

The area in red is the Durban Basin, where CGG is proposing to undertake a 2D seismic survey, which is typically applied to obtain regional data from widely spaced survey grids (tens of kilometres).

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