Frequently Asked Questions

Find the answers to all your questions here

What is fishmeal?

Fishmeal is a nutrient-rich, high-protein supplement feed ingredient that stores well, and is used primarily as a valuable ingredient in animal and aquaculture feed, as well as premium agricultural fertilizer. As such, fishmeal is an essential agricultural protein source which is in turn converted to food for human consumption. Fish oil is a by-product of the fishmeal production process and is also in high demand in the agricultural, chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

How is fishmeal produced?

Fishmeal is produced by drying the whole fish after cooking and then grinding it. It is a relatively simple process that involves the separation and storage of the by-product, fish oil. See more details in the process description and a full process flow diagram HERE.

How are the fish caught?

Fish are caught by means of vessels, using the purse seine fishing method. Purse seining involves deploying a large net to encircle the shoal, drawing the fish together like a drawstring bag. The catch is pumped aboard, drained and stored in the hold of the vessel for the passage back to land.

What type of fish and what volumes are caught?

Small pelagic fish species, (primarily anchovy and redeye herring, sardine for canning and trimmings to meal, all of which are on the SASSI Green List) are targeted and caught. Catch volumes are monitored and adjusted according to availability at the plant and in line with the plant’s Environmental Management Plan. On hotter days, smaller volumes are taken in for processing as temperature plays a key role in the rate at which the raw fish material loses its freshness. See HERE for more information regarding fish species.

SASSI Green List

Does the factory process rotten fish?

The entire production facility is designed so that the fish are processed in the shortest amount of time, as age and temperature have the greatest impact on freshness. Over time and in certain conditions, oxidization results in the deterioration of the raw material, which in turn produces poor quality fishmeal which would not be saleable. Hence why every effort is made to work only with the freshest possible fish.

Representative samples of all landed fish per shift are sent to independent and approved laboratories to test and measure the quality of the intake. Scientific data from these analyses is used to identify areas where there is an opportunity to improve efficiency. In rare instances where there are mechanical breakdowns which cause production delays, the licensing authority is informed of the situation and the intended corrective action.

There are claims that fish is trucked to the factory with fish water spillages on roads that lead to smells. How are fish transported to the factory?

We do not truck any fish to the plant. Unlike other fishmeal plants, the Hout Bay plant does not process any cannery offcuts or waste and it is only whole industrial fish which is targeted and processed. With a production design capacity of 55 tons per hour, it is physically impossible to transport fish to the plant via trucks. All catches are pumped directly from the fishing vessels and stored in cooling tanks on-site, before entering the plant for processing. Only permitted fishing vessels are allowed to harvest and land fish to the site and this is verified by Independent Marine and Coastal Management Staff who are present for every vessel’s offload.

Catch is pumped directly from the fishing vessels to the harbour and stored in cooling tanks on-site, before entering the plant for processing.

Is it true that the factory pumps its effluent into the harbour?

The factory does not pump any effluent into the harbour. All effluent lines are connected to the main municipal line and, as per the standard operating procedure for the factory, water is only sent to the pump station upon confirmation of full pump functionality from the Water Treatment Operators. It is important to note that the fishmeal process does not produce any production process effluent as all liquids are evaporated in the Waste Heat Evaporator. There is therefore no waste stream from the process. That being said, the plant does generate wash water which is created during cleanup processes of the plant and plant equipment.

What causes the smell of the fishmeal plant and is it a health hazard to the surrounding community?

The unpleasantness of the fishy smell is a direct result of trimethylamines and hydrogen sulphide. These, along with other processing emissions, are all collected and ducted and then treated in the factory’s odour suppression plant. The resulting emissions are negligibly low in concentration and do not pose a risk to the health of the community.

Internal analysis data, as well as independent analysis conducted by Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and CSIR, have shown that these emissions are not harmful to the surrounding community as they are well within World Health Organization’s recommended levels. There are no set regulatory limits for odour and, unfortunately, human olfactory senses are highly developed and therefore extremely sensitive to unpleasant aromas. The plant utilises sea water scrubbing, chemical scrubbing and/or gas incineration in order to minimise these emissions.

What odour control systems are in place at the plant?

The plant has a complex odour abatement system in place, which employs the use of sea water scrubbers, chemical scrubbers and gas incineration to reduce gaseous emissions. See HERE for more information.

What safety measures are in place for storage of fuel?

The plant stores all fuel and other relevant hazardous material in accordance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA). All storage tanks are bunded (enclosed) and measures have been implemented to ensure no ground contamination can take place. In addition, independent risk assessors periodically assess the plant and all findings and recommendations are incorporated in the factory’s emergency plan. Copies of the plan have been provided to the local police station and fire chief and, in accordance with the plant’s risk programme, regular mock emergency drills are conducted to test and improve response procedures.

Are there any other hazardous materials stored at the plant?

The plant stores Low Sulphur Oil, Sodium Hypochlorite, and Ammonia, as well as small quantities of other chemicals. The storage and maintenance of these materials adheres to the same safety protocol and emergency response plans as those implemented for the safe storage of fuel (see above).

Is smoke allowed to be emitted during the processing period?

Bylaws stipulate allowance for certain volumes of smoke emission during the processing period. In order to minimise the impact of emissions, the plant has employed various preventative and corrective actions which are communicated to and approved by authorities and audited during visits from Licensing Officials.

The fishmeal plant has six permitted smoke stacks – five for the combustion units and one for the chemical scrubbing stack. Due to the combustion of low sulphur oil, smoke is generated during plant startup as well as during equipment installation and/or repairs.

In addition, the plant periodically releases steam, during blowdown, which tends to be more pronounced during still windless days as well as days with overcast and/or low ambient temperature. None of these emissions pose a health hazard.

What causes variations in odour emission during certain periods as opposed to others?

While the plant employs various odour suppression technologies to target and minimise odour, the plant does have a characteristic fishmeal processing smell. This is especially noticeable during periods of overcast and low ambient temperate and during periods with wind direction towards residential areas.

Do you have means in place to reduce the carbon footprint?

We conducted an energy audit in 2012 and an energy review in 2013. As a result of this process, we have identified key projects that will significantly reduce and/or offset the plant’s carbon emissions and have publically disclosed targets for the intensity reduction of those emissions.  A Waste Heat Evaporator and two new Jet-Fired Riello Burners were commissioned; both will reduce fossil fuel usage and significantly lower carbon emissions.

How is carbon tax going to influence the future of the fishmeal business?

Carbon tax is part of the government’s National Climate Change Policy which aims to encourage industrial players to conduct business in an environmentally-responsible manner, thereby mitigating the negative impact of industrial processes on the environment.

Management at the plant firmly believes in the importance of conducting business responsibly and, in response to the new policy, has developed plans to reduce energy consumption at the plant.  We are actively searching for feasible and practical ways to reduce our fossil fuel dependence and thereby minimise carbon and greenhouse gas emissions.

How has processing technology changed in the factory?

During the 80’s it was standard industry practice to dump fishwater directly into the bay and for thick clouds of untreated vapour emissions to hang over the factory. The plant had absolutely no odour abatement controls and processing technology was not yet fully developed to target and minimise emission generation.


Since then and in line with international best practices, the fishmeal plant has changed the way it operates. We have incorporated and implemented various improved technologies, the most significant being the adoption of indirect steam drying as opposed to direct drying technology, which drastically reduced the volume of emissions produced. In addition, before being released, all emissions are collected and treated at every point in the production process. See HERE for more details.

Is it true that the Hout Bay Fishmeal Factory does emission sampling on days that there is little or no production?

Sampling is done over a series of consecutive processing days during normal production. Sampling days are communicated to the licensing authority and final analysis results are submitted periodically as per the terms of the plant’s Atmospheric Emission License.

During the first quarter of 2014, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEA:DP) installed an air monitoring station adjacent to the factory, which analyses and measures emissions on a 24-hour basis.

Why does processing seem to always take place on weekends when there are no inspectors to monitor emissions?

There is no correlation between processing periods and days of the week. In fact, processing can only be done according to fish availability which is a factor of weather, water temperature and fish shoaling patterns. Once a catch has taken place, the raw material is brought immediately to the plant for processing, whatever the day of the week.

How many days a year is the plant in production?

The factory is permitted to operate 365 days a year. However, due to fish availability, processing usually ranges between 120 and 220 days in a year from mid-January through to mid-December.

What do the workers do when the plant is not in production?

During periods of no fish and during the December to January shutdown season, staff concentrate their efforts on plant maintenance and infrastructure refurbishment. This period is also very important for the scheduling of staff inductions and training.

What procedures are in place in the event of an emergency?

The plant has an emergency response plan that has been reviewed by independent risk assessor consultants. The plan has been provided to relevant key emergency response personnel in Hout Bay, including the police and fire department

What permits and licences does the factory have?

See permit, license and certification section HERE.

What is being done to create a baseline for continuous improvement?

In order to ensure continuous improvement and monitoring we have the following audits and certifications whose stringent standards need to be complied with:

  • FEMAS Certification
  • ZA Export Approval
  • Marsh Risk Consulting Environmental Control System
  • Marsh Risk Consulting Risk Audit

All monitoring is conducted by external parties and we obtain a percentage (point system) that is ascribed to the latter two which ensures that we strive for continuous improvement.

Is the fishmeal plant damaging the ocean by landing too much fish?

Activities at the plant are built around fishing, which is an industry that is entirely reliant on a natural resource in order to exist. It is therefore of utmost importance to the sustainability of the plant that this natural resource – wild fish populations – continues to flourish. To ensure the integrity and soundness of the biomass of fish species that we harvest we apply cutting edge scientific knowledge in all facilitation and management at the plant and adhere strictly to TAC (Total Allowable Catch) regulations. Independent DAFF employed monitors are present for inspection and sampling during vessel offload to the factory. They verify quality, quantity as well as species which is then reported and logged by DAFF.

How do I complain if there are smells beyond the normal being emitted from the factory?

You can complain directly via the comments/complaints page HERE. 

Alternately, you can email your complaint to or call the factory at 021 791 8000.  Please be sure to provide the following information:

– Your name

– Your physical address and

– The location of the smell/incident

– the time and duration of the smell/incident

– A description of odour (for example, fishy, dry, chemical, cabbage)