Sea Harvest’s response to water crisis in the Western Cape

19 March 2018

Ever since the Western Cape Premier declared the province a drought-stricken region, Sea Harvest has been trying to drastically reduce its water consumption. This is also in line with one of our corporate values, which we refer to as “corporate anchors”, which is that “we savour the sea”, meaning we have a respectful approach to all water resources, be it fresh or salty.

Sea Harvest’s operation is both National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) and European Union accredited, and to retain this accreditation stringent food processing requirements include the use of water. This natural resource is, therefore, a key component of Sea Harvest’s operations. Our vessels are loaded with ice to store fish caught at sea. Both the Fresh Fish Processing and Added Value factories, based at the Saldanha Bay Harbour, are also dependent on municipal water to remain operational. Sea Harvest uses municipal water for factory hygiene, primary and secondary fish processing, human consumption, washing bins and tubs, ice, and water supply to vessels.

As the single largest employer in Saldanha Bay, the home of Sea Harvest’s operations, there would be a potential devastating impact on the local economy, should our operations be forced to shut down as a result of not having enough water. Approximately 4500 direct and indirect jobs would be affected. To this end, we are doing all that we can to avoid such a scenario.

Some of the measures that have been implemented to reduce our consumption of water, include the following:

  • Installed sea water supply line for Ecowise (our cleaning service provider) to connect to the water pump system in order to do initial rinse using sea water
  • Hygiene water pressure increased to reduce the volume required
  • Increased inspections of freshwater lines and reduced the time to do any repairs
  • Daily monitoring and reporting of freshwater consumption in factories
  • Identification of freshwater leaks in facilities and remedial actions carried out ASAP
  • Meetings held with Saldanha Bay Municipality to discuss effectiveness of municipal flow meters
  • Meetings held with key stakeholders, including the Western Cape Premier and Saldanha Bay Mayor’s office
  • Installed nozzles on freshwater lines to reduce consumption
  • Installation of seawater line to hose down outside areas
  • Increased the use of rinse tubs instead of running water
  • Increased employee awareness via presentations and face-to-face engagement
  • Launched internal competitions in quarterly staff magazine to promote water saving

As a result of the above-mentioned actions, between March 2016 and December 2017, fresh water consumption at Sea Harvest was reduced by 35%, and is now at 23500 m3 per month. We are currently working to further reduce our consumption by an additional 10% to 20%. We’re in discussion with various parties, including the Saldanha Bay Municipality and Saldanha Bay Water Quality Forum Trust, to see how we can achieve this. We are already actively looking at installing an effluent treatment plant for the recycling of the water from the fresh fish operations plant, which will include a reverse osmosis plant as the effluent is a blend of fresh and sea water, as well as a desalination plant. Reverse osmosis or desalination would, however, be triple the cost of current municipal supplied water.

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