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What is happening with the sardines?

June 2020 – What is happening with the sardines?

By Bruce Mann

During Lockdown in early May huge shoals were reported off East London, which was the start of Sardine Fever, as expectations rose along the coast of KwaZulu-Natal. The first shoals started arriving during the last week of May and by the first week of June the famous Sardine Run was on, with pockets of these silver fish being netted at various locations along the South Coast from Port Edward to Scottburgh. Commercial fishermen with sardine seine net permits have been very active with their vehicles piled high with crates as they travel along the highways looking for shoals to net.  A flight by the KZN Sharks Board showed super clean water with plenty of shoals just off the back line from Mtentu to Waterfall Bluff in the Eastern Cape. This year seems to have been similar to 2018, as the shoals have been accompanied by many large sharks, primarily bronze whaler and dusky sharks. Dolphins, seals, gannets and even a few penguins have been seen with the shoals. Recreational ski boat anglers have been catching wahoo, couta (King Mackerel) and big Queen Mackerel, while shore anglers have been experiencing a good shad run, although the shad do seem to have been quite small. Over the last few days many of the shoals appear to be have been moving southwards quickly – so who knows how long they will remain in KZN Waters remains to be seen.

Dr Ryan Daly, one of our ORI scientists dived on the shoal earlier this week and took some amazing photographs of the shoals of shimmering silver fish. He said “Just a pleasure to see so many sardines and even after they were netted there were still so many more. Enough for the sharks, dolphins and the netters.”  In the aerial photos taken by Greg Thompson during the sardine spotting flights conducted by the KZN Sharks Board along the coast, the dark patches of the sardine shoals can be clearly seen off Waterfall Bluff in the Eastern Cape.

Look out for our Sardine Run Fact Sheet next Friday.