MAILBOX: Outrage fuelled by Shell’s seismic survey is irrational and insubstantially emotional

Shell recently announced it has appointed Shearwater GeoServices to conduct a three-dimensional (3D) offshore seismic survey from Morgan Bay to Port St Johns, to map potential deposits of oil and gas under the seabed. The announcement, as expected, triggered intense outrage and fuelled human beings’ intense love for debate … and being offended. In Tuesday’s Daily Insider, BizNews founder Alec Hogg referred to a column in the Sunday Times – penned by an old friend of his, Peter Bruce – urging South Africans to boycott Shell. BizNews received several responses to the newsletter. Interestingly, most of these were from community members who, despite being genuine environmentalists, point out the hype around the Shell seismic survey is irrational and insubstantially emotional. As is customary, BizNews published a piece by Ivo Vegter today that provides an alternative view to that referred to in Hogg’s newsletter. – Nadya Swart

You will probably struggle to find a person more passionate about the ocean in your readership. I live in Ballito and I surf, scuba, spearfish and paddle on the ocean as often as I can. Furthermore, I absolutely love the ‘Kei from Kei Mouth, through Wavecrest, past Kob Inn, the Haven, Bulungula to White Cliffs, Hole-in-the-Wall, Mdumbi, Umngazi, Mbotyi, Waterfall Bluff and Mtentu.    

Everywhere from BizNews to my paddling WhatsApp Group and the Insta surf pages I follow, I am inundated by “F*ck Shell, save the Wild Coast”. Even my son’s tennis coach recently asked me whether I will be joining the protest march on the beach on Saturday morning… 

I am in charge of an agricultural company where we take ESG seriously, and the E of ESG is close to my heart. As a result, I know a thing or two about ESG consultants and activists. I also know that they like to go overboard and often live with their heads in an egalitarian chickpea-eating utopia. I also know a thing or two about the S in ESG; the real world and our communities where people need food, fuel and education for their kids and work to pay for these things. I therefore urge you to read Ivo Vegter’s piece on the Wild Coast matter. He makes an epic, overhead, barrelling point, bru!

When it comes to the Shell matter, I choose to leave emotion at home and look at the facts. I have channelled my inner Nick Hudson and therefore I will be taking a contrarian stance to my bloodthirsty vegan-picketing surfer brus. Unfortunately, my answer to my son’s tennis coach was: “No, I am not a sheep. I interrogate the facts and so should you before you jump on every trending bandwagon. Also, I have better things to do with my time on Saturday mornings…” I will be enjoying the less-crowded surf while the ‘petition activists’ peacefully protest in futility with flat whites cum almond milk in their hands.

Kennett Sinclair

Hi Alec

I am surprised that your main story yesterday was an uncritical acceptance of the media frenzy about the seismic survey 20 km off the Wild Coast. Your headline ‘Shell is about to unleash havoc’ is the sort of extreme language not usually associated with responsible journalism. I have always read BizNews with the assurance that you will publish both sides of a debate, even when you don’t agree with one of them!

The video with selected pictures and opinions sets out to “prove” that the seismic survey will kill all marine life along the survey area. I personally love the Wild Coast but I prefer to follow facts before emotion. I believe the following observations are relevant to the subject and, for me, prompt a more rational review of the issue.

  1. Seismic surveying of the seabed is not a new technology.
  2. As far as I know, it was probably the same technique used off the South Coast a few years ago when the gas field was found off Mossel Bay. It would appear that there has been little permanent damage to the marine environment. There has certainly been no outcry.
  3. Some 40 or 50 years ago, the North Sea bed was surveyed and the oil field discovered and developed (by BP?). The development resulted in many associated jobs in Aberdeen, as well as a huge saving in forex for the UK. I have heard of no complaints from Scottish fishermen or coastal dwellers.
  4. My knowledge of wild animals is that when their environment is disturbed, they move away. They return when the situation has calmed again. Similarly, when vegetation is disturbed it adapts and if left undisturbed, will slowly revert to its previous state.
  5. Shell has stated that it suspends testing if large mammals such as whales or dolphins move through the survey area. Maybe.
  6. Such surveys must be expensive and can be conducted only by large companies like Shell, BP or Texaco. Naturally, they, like any business, seek to make a profit. Because they are huge companies, the amount of profit they generate is also huge. I can see no objection to this, so long as the operations are legal.
  7. Lastly, the survey is some 20 km off the coast. It would probably pass unnoticed by the majority of coastal residents and visitors. If gas or oil was found in workable quantities, there would probably be quite a boost in associated business and employment in East London.

Incidentally, I have always loved the Wild Coast and have spent many happy holidays there. The points I have made will probably be scorned by the emotive media and rude things said about me, but please, let’s discuss it with facts.

Dave Donkin

Here is a balancing perspective to the one in the video you refer to in The Daily Insider of 23 November 2021: I do think, though, that a (new?) EIA should be done because things have moved on – circumstances have changed – since 2013.


Peter Jerman

Good morning Alec

When you drive to work, when you go away on holiday … be thankful for fossil fuels. When Tesla rules supreme, the wokists, ESG investors and climate-crisis pointy shoes will have made us so compliant that we will happily sit at home for our annual leave braaing soya steaks and go to work on an electric bus with our masks on and quadri vaccinated.

We might even remember the good old days when things worked and the purpose of life was a limitless horizon in the pursuit of  health, wealth and happiness.


Chris Fey

PS: In the good old days, the lights being on didn’t depend on the wind blowing and the sun shining. And our body warmth didn’t depend on blankets and jerseys, but could rely on central heating. And scientific fact could be pursued and debated independently of the fact checkers. And the middle class didn’t depend on food parcels from Big Brother.

Hi Alec

Are you aware that South Africa’s national oil company Soekor (later PetroSA) has been conducting these surveys using the exact same airgun arrays for more than 30 years covering the entire SA coastline, collecting millions of linear kilometres of survey in the process? Have we seen evidence of the damage caused by these surveys over the years? If anything like what is claimed in the video you shared, then our offshore areas would by now have been wastelands.  I suspect this is not the case….

Kind regards 

Willem de Meyer

All I can say is: unleash havoc on nature and it WILL unleash havoc on us… So sad that man’s main focus on life is GREED and disrespect! 

Louise Madgwick

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