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South African Community Says No to Shell

The public notification from Shell, the oil giant, was clear: In one month it would send a ship to conduct a seismic survey, using deafeningly loud sound waves to map more than 2,300 square miles of geology beneath the deep waters off this stretch of South Africa’s coast. But this time was different. Everyone from fishers to surfers to eco-lodge owners, both Black and White, joined to protect the pristine coast, home to legendary migrations of whales, dolphins, sea turtles and sardines. In December, they took the London-based multinational corporation to court — and won. The seismic survey vessel that Shell hired, the Amazon Warrior, left. Shell had argued that the complaints about harm were “of a speculative nature,” but G.H. Bloem, a judge on one of South Africa’s 13 regional high courts, declared “The expert evidence establishes that there is a reasonable apprehension of real harm to marine life.” He added that the court had “a duty to step in” and protect people’s constitutional right to be consulted.