THE Petroleum Agency of South Africa (Pasa) has reportedly granted permission for seismic surveys to be undertaken to explore oil and gas along the East Coast.The surveys, which would entail the use of sound energy to explore gas and oil in the ocean, have raised concerns over the environmental impact they would have. Local fisherman since the age of 16, Sonny Chetty (78), was fishing at the Port Shepstone beach last week and said he had not caught anything that day and fishing generally was on the decline in the area. “I think the biggest mistake the government made was allowing big international companies to come and fish in our ocean. Now they want to make matters worse with this oil exploration thing. How do they expect local fishermen to survive?” Spokesperson for WESSA South Coast, Paddy Norman said from previous examples the surveys not only had detrimental effects on the environment, the procedure was not guaranteed and benefits for locals were minimal.Norman said the surveys seemingly affected microscopic organisms like krill and other zooplankton. “If you destroy the krill, or even interrupt their life cycle they do not breed at the usual rate, then the bigger animals starve, some whales live entirely on krill, so their migration through our area might become less viable ... they would eventually die out.“It is not unlikely that previous seismic prospecting has indirectly contributed to the apparent failure of the sardine run in recent years,” he said. Also, the noise would affect whales, dolphins and many fish species, he said. “Fish do not have ‘ears’, but a line of cells along their bodies which pick up vibrations in the water. They use these both for detecting their food and for avoiding predators, so being deafened could well be fatal,” said Norman.He said it all boiled down to one questions. “Does the possibility of a few short-term jobs, and a lot of money going to overseas investors, justify risking major problems for our local economy? “And if it does not then the prospecting itself is a waste of resources with excessive environmental risks.” Pasa said the agency was aware of the potential environmental impacts of the surveys, however, the correct regulations were followed.