The Oceana Fish Meal Factory in Hout Bay employs 98 people, most from Hangberg. The factory includes the two white buildings on the right and centre of this picture. It was established in 1958, but in recent years has faced protest from Hout Bay residents, who have complained of the smell it causes. Picture: SUPPLIED Reporter Jan Cronje

Cape Town - The Hout Bay Civic Association has pleaded for Oceana’s fishmeal factory to not close, saying financially struggling residents of Hangberg and Imizamo Yethu would suffer without the money the plant brings in.

On Friday the Oceana Group announced it was giving “serious consideration” to closing the plant which employees 98 people, following years of complaints about the stench it emitted. The group said the plant had operated at a loss since it scaled back production three years ago in an attempt to placate concerns of residents.

The association’s secretary Roscoe Jacobs said the majority of the plant’s workers come from the communities of Hangberg and Imizamo Yethu. He said if the workers did not spend their salaries in these areas, the communities would become poorer as the “value chain of the money” would cease.

No decision on the plant’s closure has yet been made.

Oceana will this week hold further meetings with workers and representatives of the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu), to thrash out how to keep it open. The talks will be mediated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.

The major fishing group has also offered employment to all the plant’s workers at another of its fishmeal plants in St Helena Bay on the West Coast, if it does close. This would, however, mean the workers would have to move.

Jacobs said the factory, which was founded in 1958, was closely linked to the Hangberg community. “We have learnt to live with the smell,” he said.

To residents who have complained about its smell, Jacobs said as they knowingly bought their homes in Hout Bay they should “learn to live with it”.

Ike Moritz of the community group Fresh Air For Hout Bay told Weekend Argus on Friday the group never wanted the factory to close, saying it only wanted the stench to stop.

Alan Winde, the province’s MEC for economic opportunities, said there were pros and cons when it came to the factory’s possible closure.

While it could result in job losses, he said the tourism sector had often complained about the stench the factory emitted.

Sunday Argus