Silver ribbons of sardines streamed into KwaZulu-Natal on Friday‚ infecting the south coast with the much-anticipated “sardine fever”.
Entrepreneurial fishermen flocked to beaches at Margate to net them.
The KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board’s Greg Thompson confirmed there had been one successful net.
“I make no predictions as to when they will hit Durban shores because you never know with these fish, but I am glad they have arrived. It’s good for tourism,” he said.
Every winter‚ most often in June or July‚ millions of sardines leave the cold waters off Cape Point and make their way up the coast to KwaZulu-Natal.
Each year holidaymakers flock to the province to catch a glimpse of the spectacle, which is dubbed the Greatest Shoal on Earth, and includes sharks‚ birds and dolphins in a feeding frenzy as they prey on the sardines.
Earlier Thompson said the elusive little silver fish had “minds of their own” and “seem to enjoy proving us all wrong year after year”.
His crew conducted an observation flight into Eastern Cape waters on Tuesday to assess the movement of sardine shoals.
“The flight departed from Virginia Airport and turned at Hole In The Wall. The water was discoloured, ranging from 1m to 4m in KwaZulu-Natal, with some areas having zero visibility. The upper region of the Eastern Cape, from Mzamba to Goss Point, had a maximum of 2m to 3m visibility, with areas where mud was being churned up from the seabed to the surface. There was very little sardine-related activity spotted in this area, apart from two very small pockets seen in the surf zone off the Wild Coast Sun.”
“We then started seeing decent purple shoals of sardines, from Waterfall Bluff scattered right through to Poenskop, just north of Port St Johns. These pockets were mostly seen along the shallow line between the backline and slightly offshore. There were approximately 40 pockets seen, with one a long thin piece about 400m long. Throughout the flight we had large pods of common and bottlenose dolphin. We also saw 18 humpback whales and two Bryde’s whales,” Thompson said.
From Port St Johns to Hole In The Wall the sardine-related activity was seen further offshore, with most of the Cape Gannets off Hluleka and Mtakatye.
“Unfortunately with the muddy water on last week’s flight, we cannot really gauge how fast the sardine shoals are moving north, or if they are holding in the Waterfall Bluff/Mbotyi area,” said Thompson.
The next flight to East London is scheduled for June 21.