Cape anchovies introduced to uShaka Sea World aquarium

  • 21 March 2016 | Ann Kunz | Category: Species

During February uShaka staff noticed shoals of Cape anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus) in the shallows at uShaka Beach which presented a unique opportunity to collect and display these slender shoaling fish. 

It is the first time the Aquarium has managed to display anchovies to the public to demonstrate their mesmerising and exciting shoaling behaviour.

Anchovies shoaling in the Large Shark exhibit


More than 20 000 anchovies were collected in specially designed plastic hoop bags and taken into quarantine where they remained in a bath treatment to heal any scale damage.

The Cape anchovy is a rapidly growing fish that reaches a maximum size of 15cm and matures between one and two years. They spawn along the South African coast between the Western Cape and Richards Bay over an extended period from November to March.

Although they are found mainly in the Western Cape, small shoals do migrate as far as KwaZulu-Natal during summer. Unlike sardines, the shoals are not large enough to be followed up the coast by predators but are pursued by opportunistic fish species such as tuna and shad.

Aquarist Craig Smith carries a load of anchovies from the transport vehicle to quarantine

Anchovies are mostly pelagic and can be found at depths of up to 400m. They are filter feeders which live on plantonic organisms – mainly copepods and the larvae of other organisms.

They are targeted by those fishing with purse seine, beach seine and midwater trawl nets. In 2013, 406 511 tons of anchovies were caught in South African waters and processed for fish meal, canned or salted and marketed fresh or frozen.

South Africa stocks are currently being fished at maximum levels. The management of the fishery is considered to be effective and research is ongoing in regards to the interaction between the small pelagic fishery and the endangered African penguin. Bycatch is a concern in this fishery as it makes up between 5 and 30% of the total catch.

View the anchovies in the Shark Exhibit and in a smaller exhibit outside the Treasure Chest. Be sure to spend some time with your camera as you could be fortunate enough to capture the fish shoaling.

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