Sardine fever might be heating up along the KwaZulu-Natal coast ahead of the annual sardine run, but it seems that eager fishermen and residents might have to wait a while longer.
KwaZulu-Natal’s Sharks Board revealed after a surveillance flight yesterday that, while there were large pockets of bait fish – including an almost uninterrupted 20km stretch from Port St Johns to the Mbashe River in the former Transkei – it was not clear that they were sardines.
The “greatest shoal on earth” takes place annually from May to July, when the sardines swim along a band of cool water that occurs in winter alongside the shoreline.
Sharks Board head of operations Mike Anderson-Reade said that none of the sharks, dolphins or gannets that usually feed on the sardine shoals were present.
“It’s difficult to say if they are sardines or not, as these [associated] species give us the best indication,” he said.
While Anderson-Reade said there were probably sardines among the fish, the pockets were most likely bait fish like mackerel and anchovy.
He said the Sharks Board would conduct more surveillance flights, with the next one scheduled for next week.
The board reported on Monday the first signs of increased sardine shoals off the Eastern Cape coast in the area between Coffee Bay and Hole in the Wall, about 140km south of KwaZulu-Natal.
The marine sensation, which occurs only off the coast of Southern Africa, was first reported in 1883 and is well known in Durban, where people scoop up sardines near the beaches.