The 2018 Sardine Run is in full swing on South Africa's Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal coasts. (Photo: iStock)
The silvery throngs of wily sardines have descended upon the South African shores once again - a spectacular marine show that not only attracts dive enthusiasts and fishermen, but also the predators of the sea world.
Between May and July every year, millions of the shoal fish travel north up the East Coast of South Africa to escape the winter chill in the southern oceans.
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Millions of fish migrate through these waters, causing a feeding frenzy with sharks, dolphins, birds and other predators with a fishy appetite. Humans too jump in on the action, almost guaranteeing massive hauls in nets along the coastline. The shoals can stretch for 7 kilometres and be 30 metres deep, making it even visible from the air.
A sardine run isn't guaranteed however to take place every year, as it is dependent on the temperature of the water. It needs to drop to below 21°C in order to prompt the sardines in Agulhas bank to migrate to warmer waters.
However, that driving force behind the migration is little understood, with hypotheses relating to breeding and preferences for certain water temperatures, but no theory has been confirmed.
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This year, the Sardine Run started at the beginning of June with the first spottings around Mazeppa Point in Eastern Cape, with thousands of dolphins and Cape gannets feeding on the first shoals, according to the KZN Sharks Board.
Last week, increased activity of sardines were spotted between Waterfall Bluff and Port St Johns, and pockets of the silvery fish were netted in the Kelso area, as well as Mtwalume and Ifafa. At Kelso 500 crates of sardines were caught by commercial fishermen.
However, SASSI is reminding everyone that sardines was moved to the orange list last year and for fishermen and consumers to think twice before hauling tonnes of the fish during the sardine run.
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Predators were most active at Mkambati to Umgazana near Port St Johns.
"This was very exciting to see as we have not observed this type of intense activity so near to KZN for a number of years. It is very difficult to try and predict when and if this spectacle will reach KZN and the timeline could be anything from a few days’ to a possibly a week or two. Should the fish continue northwards it appears that we may be in for one of the better sardine runs seen in a long while," says KZN Sharks Board.
As a result, beachgoers need to be aware that the shark safety gear at certain KZN beaches have been removed to allow the sardines and predators to move through freely.
So far the beaches between Hibberdene and Port Edward are already gear-free, and the KZN Sharks Board urge bathers to limit their swimming and to support the reasons for the removal.
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Here are the best spots to see the Sardine Run:
- Port St Johns
- Mkambati Nature Reserve
- Coffee Bay
- Golden Mile in Durban
- Aliwal Shoal
- Port Edward to Hibberdene
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Check out some the action from last week: