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The Greatest Shoal On Earth Is Here

Ugu South Coast Tourism (USCT) was excited to report more sardine action on KwaZulu-Natal’s South Coast on 15 June, following the weekend’s cold spell. The Sardine Run is an annual attraction whereby sardine shoals move northwards along the coastline, attracting marine life and seine netters. The KZN South Coast benefits from the Sardine Run action being close to the shore, and this year the little fish have already brought a lot of ocean action.

“What a bonanza of fish we saw; it was overwhelming with so many sardines! As both a scientist and someone who has been following the sardines for many years, it was amazing to see the volume of sardines yesterday on 16 June,” explains Dr Ryan Daly of the Oceanographic Research Institute. “Certainly, it’s the most sardines I’ve ever seen on the KZN South Coast. With climate change, potential pressure from commercial fishing and shifts in the way animals respond to environments, many scientists were worried that bumper Sardine Runs were a thing of the past, so it’s fantastic to see the surge in activity. It should bode well for a great season.”

He said the pandemic meant that, unlike previous years, there hasn’t been anyone closely following sardines on the Wild Coast: “We don’t actually know how much activity there was on the Wild Coast and whether this is just a pocket that showed up on the South Coast, or if it was preceded by a much larger volume. We’ll just have to wait to see, over the next few weeks, if this is followed by even more sardines. We certainly are way overdue for a big run!”

Commenting on the recent predatory activity, Daly said the sardine volume had attracted dusky sharks, bronze whaler sharks and spinner sharks to feed on the shoals, as well as big game fish such as couta fish, tuna and snoek.

“It was great to see that people netted enough sardines for themselves, but that there were still so many sardines beyond those that could be netted – what a bounty for the community and wildlife along the coast! It’s been amazing to witness the change in people’s attitudes to the sharks over the years as well,” he continues. “People were releasing sharks from the nets and showing respect for these important aquatic animals. This area is a nursery for dusky sharks in particular, which are endangered, and it was so special to see these sharks and the respect people have for them.”

Sardine run

Image credit: Donald Strydom.

CEO of USCT, Phelisa Mangcu, echoed these sentiments, stating it has been one of the best Sardine Runs the KZN South Coast has experienced in a number of years: “In addition to this being a spectacle to witness, the annual Sardine Run provides economic security for commercial fishermen, and food security for subsistence fishermen, as well as generally great fishing for our recreational anglers along the KZN South Coast shores.”

Mangcu says the recent cold spell had proved particularly beneficial, bringing with it shoals of sardines to various locations along the coastline with netting taking place at Sezela, Ramsgate, Scottburgh, Southbroom and Pennington over the past few days: “This is only the start of this winter event, and we’re looking forward to ongoing marine activity over the coming days. USCT would like to thank everyone who is supporting our local fishermen during this time, as well as those providing support to local restaurants and cafes. We also encourage everyone to continue practising all required health-and-safety protocols, including wearing of masks, regular hand sanitising and social distancing.”

Sardine run

Image credit: Noel McDonagh.

Stay connected to the Sardine Run digitally during lockdown. Check out the South Coast Tourism Facebook page and @infosouthcoast on Twitter for breathtaking images of seine netters on the shore.

For more information about the KZN South Coast and USCT, visit www.visitkznsouthcoast.co.za or download the free ‘Explore KZN South Coast’ app to find a local supplier.

*Main image credit: Dr Ryan Daly

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