|   Fishing, News

The Hout Bay Fishmeal Factory

The Hout Bay Fishmeal Factory has been in operation since the late 1950s in an industrially zoned area which is a proclaimed fishing harbour in South Africa. Read more about the factory and its journey since 1958.

Continued Operation in Hout Bay

On 4 November 2015 Oceana announced its intention to remain operational in Hout Bay. Over the past three years, Oceana reduced plant production to less than 40% of normal annual production levels to try and reduce the impact on vocal communities complaining about the odour of the plant on certain production days. Critically, Oceana did not reduce the factory’s workforce during this de-escalation of activity. In order to become financially viable and protect the job security of its staff in Hout Bay, Oceana will now revert to pre-2012 production levels and run production between 120-180 days per year, which is in accordance with Oceana’s staffing capacity and original permit allowance. Staff at the factory will now be able to work according to the correct capacity.

During the announcement last year the factory announced its intention to invest R11 million into the facility in order to ensure alignment with international best practice and continuous optimisation technology. This is inclusive of the cost for construction and installation of an upgraded chemical scrubbing system and is in addition to the reported R50 million which was invested over the previously 15 years.

The Upgraded Chemical Scrubber

Oceana is busy consulting the Licensing Authority regarding authorisation for the replacement unit installation. This will enable for continued operations that is aligned with international best practice. It must be noted that the fishmeal factory currently has a fully functioning chemical scrubbing system in use whose efficiency has been verified by independent analysis of exiting gaseous streams. As such the new scrubber is an upgrade of the previous scrubber and can be thought to be analogous of a revised computer operating system which, may potentially be more efficient but, cannot completely eliminate the smells associated with fishmeal production.

This application process which initiated in November 2015, involved the completion of authorisation documentation with the Department of Environmental Affairs and Developmental Planning as well as the City of Cape Town, and is in the process of being finalized.

The new scrubber will take 6 months for construction which includes design finalization, material ordering and assembly as well as installation which is excluding the commissioning phase. Now due to the historical landings this implies that the unit which will be installed and commissioned in the last quarter of 2016 will only operational in the 2017 fishing year.

What causes the odour at the fishmeal factory?

The fishmeal factory processes industrial fish into fishmeal and oil. Read more about the production process.

When one cooks fish in a residential household, it results in characteristic fishy smells that cannot be completely eliminated. The same principal applies for the local Hout Bay factory which cooks and dries industrial quantities of fish.

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

How is the smell minimised?

The factory in Hout Bay employs the most advanced odour abatement technology in Southern Africa and is the best technology available globally. As required by the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act, the facility has adopted the best practice for odour abatement management and  is the only fishmeal plant in South Africa to hold a final Atmospheric Emissions License (AEL).

The fishmeal factory collects all production emissions from cookers, conveyors, dryers and other processing equipment and channels it though a high-capacity seawater scrubber. From here it is directed via a balancing tank to either a chemical scrubber or to the boilers for gas combustion. An oxidising agent is used for chemical scrubbing in order to react and minimise the odourous compounds. Other elements of the odour suppression system include enclosed fish holding tanks at fish intake phase as well as a cyclone and bag filter system in the bagging phase. Click here for additional details regarding the odour suppression system.

Emissions from Production

Oceana understands that the unpleasant odour associated with fishmeal production is an imposition may be considered unpleasant to some community groups, particularly when certain weather conditions don’t allow the odour to be dispersed off shore. The frequency, intensity and location with which residents may experience odours are largely dependent on the prevailing wind direction and velocity as well as characteristic topography of Hout Bay. Oceana will continue to keep the lines of communication open with concerned members of the community and will continue to research and invest in new odour abatement technology that is proven to be more effective and or suitable.

We would also like to advise residents that the “smoke” that is sometimes seen emanating from the stacks is as a result of starting-up the boilers and is typical of industrial plant operations. It will be present at the start-up and is monitored to ensure alignment with relevant by-laws. In addition the plant may also emit steam which is visible during days with lower than normal ambient temperature.

Stakeholder Communication

The company has a dedicated telephone line (021 791 8000) and email ( for residents to register any complaints and all calls are investigated and logged with the regulating authorities. There is also this dedicated website ( which provides residents with greater detail regarding operations and enables for online complaints to be logged during incidents of abnormal production smells.

The firm support from the Hout Bay’s wider community, government and other stakeholders for the continued operation of the Fishmeal Factory clearly demonstrates the need for all to be more sensitive to Hout Bay’s historic fishing industry and the pressing socio-economic needs of the wider community.

More details regarding the progress for the replacement chemical scrubber will follow post completion of the consultation process with the Licensing and Competent Authority.