Hayden Malan

Saldanha Bay as a Living Resource:

Negotiating Re(source) Dynamics in a Water Scarce Bay


Saldanha Bay, South Africa’s second busiest port, exists as a complex set of living systems, poised at the interchange between land and water. Because of its role as a port city, it is a place where water systems, transport routes, and industrial activity meet and intermingle. This thesis focuses on the threat that is posed to the ecosystems of the bay through repeatedly introducing copious amounts of ballast water from the holds of international cargo ships (Duncan, 2014; Marangoni, Pienaar, & Sym, 2001). Paradoxically, it is the entangled routes and systems that led to the disastrous degradation of marine life that suggest Saldanha Bay’s potential for sustaining a more symbiotic water system. The main design objective is to mitigate the degradation of the marine environment by filtering ballast water to rid it of invasive non-indigenous species (NIS). The central design proposes to filter ballast water through onshore abalone farming and concurrently generate onshore seaweed feed and farming. Such filtration would rely on the environment created by naturally occurring kelp species, Ecklonia maxima, which has great potential to further support ecological functioning. The site of this project is an abandoned iron ore factory, which is well-situated to be repurposed for water filtration. It is not only the saline water system that will benefit from such an intervention: to repurpose the factory site in a way that rejuvenates both the health of the bay’s waters and the economy, would be to fulfil the promise of job security that the community was led to expect when the factory was originally constructed. Furthermore, if the ballast water were desalinated and reintroduced as a source of much-needed fresh water, it would support other living systems in the town and surrounding community. The interdependent industries of ballast water maintenance, fresh water sourcing, and fishing would work together to make each more resilient and provide opportunities for people to be grounded in their environment.