It's that time of the year again when the KwaZulu-Natal coast shows off its impressive wildlife, as the sardine run begins. The KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board (KZNSB), in a statement on Thursday, confirmed that they had received reports of "sardine-related activity" between the Nqabara River Mouth and the Dwesa Marine Reserve.
"It was reported that there were large shoals of fish spotted, with thousands of gannets feeding in amongst these shoals," Sharks Board acting head of operations Greg Thompson said on Thursday. He said they had also received a report of activity in the Rame Heads area, 26km south of Port St Johns in the Eastern Cape.
"This activity consisted of common dolphins and gannets feeding in this area. There have been no further sightings of much activity north of this, but hopefully the sardine activity will increase between Port St Johns and Port Edward after the cold front passes later this evening."
Thompson cautioned that most of the reports and feedback they had received were from inshore areas. "So, as we all know, there is always a possibility of being surprised by fish which have moved through undetected in the deeper waters. These fish are very unpredictable and have always kept us all guessing about their movement."
Decades long tradition
He said there were "always numerous opinions, but one seldom guesses right when it comes to sardines".
"It is probably just as well, otherwise the sardine stocks might have been non-existent by now. The KZNSB will continue to monitor activity in the days ahead."
According to the Sharks Board website, the sardines often flock to the KwaZulu-Natal coastline in June and July. Locals indulge in the decades long tradition of eating the fish or using them as bait.
The sardine run on the KwaZulu-Natal coast. (Supplied: KZN Sharks Board/John Lamberti)
Like their close relatives – anchovies and herrings – sardines live out their lives in huge shoals on the surface layers of the ocean.
Although these fish are small, collectively they comprise nearly a quarter of the world's fish catch by weight, making them one of our most valuable groups of fish.
Sardines are cold-water fish and are usually associated with areas of cold ocean upwelling, where deeper, cooler, nutrient-rich water currents surge to the surface when they strike shallow coastal areas.
Sardines are commonly found in enormous shoals on the west coasts of California, South America, Japan, Australia and, of course, southern Africa.