Residents and businesses of Hout Bay are compaining about the overwhelming smell of rotten fish emanating from the harbour. Photo: David Ritchie

Cape Town - Residents and businesses of Hout Bay have complained about the overwhelming smell of rotten fish emanating from the harbour.

For three months of the year, the Oceana Group, one of the largest fishing companies in South Africa, embarks on its fishmeal production. Fishmeal is used as an ingredient in animal and aquaculture feed. It is also used as a fertiliser.

The smell created during production is so bad that businesses have complained that they have been affected while residents have said they have been worried about their health.

For resident Emma Stokes, the smell is just too much. She wrote to the city’s health department asking for help in reducing the smell.

“The past week has been unbearable again, with residents unable to have any window open or go outside. I cannot believe that one factory operating in a highly industrial manner can hold an entire suburb of thousands to ransom - especially in an area that derives the majority of its income and job creation through residents and tourists.” Stokes said.

Mayoral committee member for health Lungiswa James said she had received numerous complaints from residents. Her department had launched a probe into whether the fumes from Oceana’s factory was a danger to people.

Len Swimmer, chairman of the Residents’ Association of Hout Bay, said complaints by residents always flooded in at this time of year, but there was nothing they could do. He said the smell usually lasted from March to May.

Swimmer said that as far as he knew, the factory’s emissions fell within legal levels.

Suegne Thomson, owner of the Seacliffe Lodge guest house, said that every year the smell from the factory cost her about R20 000.

“I receive so many complaints from guests, I’ve lost count. Financially, it has dire consequences for my business,” said Thomson.

Many of her guests did not stay for their full duration of their booking, Thomson said.

In the most recent incident, an Italian couple could not stomach the smell and left three days before their check-out date, she said.

“They woke and felt so sick that they couldn’t eat breakfast. They told me they were going to leave. I couldn’t charge them for the remainder of their stay,” Thomson said.

She was worried the couple might have slammed her business on an online travel website if she charged them for the nights they didn’t stay.

In the 14 years since she had owned the lodge, the smell had become worse.

“We are at a point where we can’t even open the windows. But the worst thing is that we can do nothing about it,” she said.

The Oceana Group could not be reached for comment.

[email protected]

Cape Times