The application by Afro Fishing (Pty) Ltd. to establish a fish meal and fish oil manufacturing plant on the old I&J premises on Quay 1 of the Mossel Bay harbour caused such a public outcry that Mosselbayontheline was urged by several readers to launch a petition in order to prevent such a "short-sighted catastrophe from killing the town's thriving tourism industry and livelihood".
Local home and holiday home owners, as well as business owners, fear they will be left in the same position as residents in Hout Bay, Gansbaai and Saldanha Bay where all attempts, appeals, and lengthy court cases to curb the unbearable stink that invariably goes hand in hand with such an industry came to nothing.
They are also concerned about the impact on their property value, the pristine environment and that a fish meal factory will create much fewer job opportunities than it will cut jobs when restaurants and tourism industries have to close their doors due to the stench.
Questions are also raised about the viability and practicality of such an industry next to a planned multi-billion-rand-project to upgrade and enlarge the harbour area into an upmarket waterfront and tourism Mecca.
Afri Fishing, the current owner of the canning factory in the Mossel Bay harbour, also plans to expand the canning factory to accommodate red herring, anchovy and other fish species for the international export market.
While everybody supports job creation and the potential economic injection of such an industry, the majority is against the location and its negative impact on existing businesses, residents, the environment and especially tourism.
The ongoing battle of residents in other coastal towns where similar fish meal factories are operating should be a fair indication and timeous warning of the widespread impact of such a plant.
The biggest concern is the proven inability of the respective authorities to police, monitor and enforce all the legal procedures and legislation pertaining to such an industry.
Another concern is the ongoing drought and where the water for such water-intensive industries must come from.
Last year, two desalination plants were launched at Lucky Star's cannery and fish meal operations on the West Coast to relieve their dependence on the West Coast district municipality’s water supply . .. Is the same route going to be followed in Mossel Bay?
"If nothing and nobody could henceforth manage to successfully curb the unbearable stink and negative impact of these fish meal factories anywhere in the world, what makes Mossel Bay think they will have the ultimate solution? What's happening in Hout Bay and Saldanha Bay is an exact example of what can be expected here", was said.
Photo: The Lucky Star factory, a subsidiary of the Oceana Group, emits a smell of rotting fish and has had Hout Bay residents up in arms for years with no resolution in sight. Photo: David Ritchie
The stealthy way in which plans and the public participation process for such an invasive industry were announced, also ruffled some feathers and is reminiscent of the out-of-the-blue soil-turning ceremony last year to publicly celebrate a chemical plant next to PetroSA . . . which has apparently since been discarded, or at least, placed on the back burner?
The first word that the public heard of any plans for such a controversial fish meal plant was an unobtrusive official notice published on a back page of last week's Advertiser (22 February 2019), along with a deadline to register as an Interested and Affected Party (I&AP) and to submit written comments to the Cape Environmental Association on or before 25 March 2019.
People complained that such unobtrusive notices in a community paper, as well as the short deadline times for objections, are grossly unfair and suspicious, as only a handful of affected parties see or read such official notices and by the time they become aware of the implications of such an industry, it is too late to object.
"What about homeowners living abroad or elsewhere in the country? How must they know about plans for such ambitious industries that pose disastrous threats to their property value and quality of life in order to object timeously?"
Mosselbayontheline was bombarded with comments and questions from concerned residents after we wrote about Afro Fishing's plans; and within hours after we launched the petition, more than 100 have signed it and over 300 recommended the petition.
Here are some of the public commentaries and objections:
* "Penny wise and a pound foolish.
Gee 200 werk by Vismeel fabriek en AL die Restaurante in die omgewing maak toe agv omgewing... Dan begin toerisme afneem... Nog mense in toerisme bedryf werkloos... Besighede wat staatmaak op seisoenale inkomste maak toe... Eiendomsmark val deur die vloer en kontrakteurs maak toe... tel al hierdie mense wie se brood en botter in gevaar is bymekaar... dalk meer as die 200 nuwe jobs wat beloof word. O’, jou eiendom is ook skielik minder werd...klink goed né!? "
* "They better have excellent abatement methods in place to mitigate the smells if they proceed... stinky emissions can have many far-reaching negative impacts on the town; from impacts on tourism and the local community; to property prices and eventually job losses... It's not a simple situation and job creation in the short term is not the only determining factor... it will need good and thorough planning to be successful!"
- "This is not about eating fish or stopping fishing. It's about a smelly fish meal (not for human consumption) plant in an area that is dependent on tourism. Tourists do not go to smelly places to spend their money."
- "All I'm concerned about is the location of the plant. Right in the tourist area. Some weeks ago there was talk of enlarging the harbour to accommodate the large cruise ships that come here. That would then become a rather pointless development as tourists will not enjoy the smell. What about an alternative position for the plant, Mosdustria? Then you can create additional jobs for transporting fish to the plant etc.
- Tourism is the goose that keeps laying golden eggs, killing it is not a wise thing."
- "That smell!!! Be like St Helena ...and when the breeze blows towards town....you guys better run.... lock up ..everything is going to smell fishy!!!! No thanks. If it was on the outskirts of town different setup altogether."
- "Jy gaan argumentsonthalwe, 50 werksgeleenthede skep. Maar, nou stink Mosselbaai en besoekers bly weg. Hoeveel mense gaan hulle werk dan verloor? 'n 1000? 10000? Ter wille om net 50 werk te gee. Kyk na die groter prentjie en die skade wat dit kan berokken."
Underneath is a link to the petition that we launched late last night on public demand. Within hours, more than 130 people signed it and over 340 recommended the petition.
Residents feel the potential impact of the stinky fish meal factory on the tourism industry and the overall image of the town as a coveted holiday destination, will be devastating.
If you are against this industry, please sign the petition and give reasons why you object to its establishment. We need as many petitioners as possible to stop this smelly business in its tracks before it's too late!
Photo: Fishmeal Factory - Processing fish at fishmeal factory in Nouadhibou, Mauritania. Cape-CFFA.
Photo: The controversial fish meal plant in Hout Bay that has had residents and tourists up in arms for decades - without a proper solution.
Read the background here: