Residents and businesses near Hout Bay harbour have complained that the smell from The Lucky Star fishmeal factory has become unbearable. Picture: David Ritchie/Independent Media

Cape Town - Hout Bay residents say they are being held hostage in their homes by the nauseating stench from a fishmeal factory operating in the area.

The Lucky Star – a division of Oceana Brands – restarted production last week, chasing patrons from outdoor restaurants and resulting in guests fleeing B&Bs because of the foul-smelling emissions.

Resident Ike Moriz said it was extremely frustrating and a heath hazard.

“We are 2km away but can still smell it and have been suffering from nausea, headaches, and red, irritated eyes.

“The smell sits in our house and comes through every crack. I actually phoned the factory to ask if there had been an explosion or if something had gone wrong.”

Gareth Smith, a manager at the Lookout Deck in Hout Bay Harbour, said they’d had many complaints from patrons, while the smell had chased others away.

He said several businesses were considering drawing up a petition.

“When I went to speak to one of the managers at the plant I was told they would be operating 24/7 until September.”

Last year, the Oceana Group considered closing the plant and moving operations to St Helena Bay, 150km from Cape Town, which potentially could have resulted in 98 job losses.

Instead, after pressure from unions, the company renewed its lease with the Department of Public Works for five years and confirmed its atmospheric licence with local government.

The Cape Argus e-mailed the Oceana Group several questions, including what had been done to try to reduce the smell and whether it was working.

But all spokeswoman Pamela Manda said was: “Oceana Group does not have a comment at this stage.”

Kiara Worth, one of the founders of Fresh Air for Hout Bay – a forum for residents to voice their concerns and propose ideas to deal with the fishy odour – said that since the factory started production last week, the stench had been unbearable.

“Last week was the first time it had started up since August and I think people remembered just how terrible it is.”

She said it was a serious problem affecting the entire community.

“A B&B down the road from me is offering a 10 percent discount because their guests are leaving.”

Worth is planning to start gathering as much data as possible, speaking to guesthouse owners and other businesses about their losses.

She said she believed it was unethical for the estimated 15 000 people in Hout Bay to have to live and work in the stench.

Councillor Siyabulela Mamkeli, the mayoral committee member for health,

said the city had been engaging with the factory management to discuss the procurement and commissioning of a new chemical scrubber (an air control device), but that the process would take some months to finalise.

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Cape Argus