Durban – COASTAL residents might soon be treated to the 2021 edition of the sardine run following early reports of sardine activity in the Eastern Cape.
This prompted the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board (KZNSB) operations division to fly down to the Eastern Cape on Tuesday to conduct their first sardine observation flight of the 2021 season.
KZNSB head of operations Greg Thompson said they would expect to see signs of sardine activity somewhere between Mazeppa Bay and East London depending on the biomass of sardines, water temperatures and the inshore current conditions.
Thompson said normal activity that accompanied shoals of sardines included hundreds to thousands of Cape gannets, very large schools of bottlenose and common dolphins and often many sharks. Those were all indicators that the staff kept an eye out for sardines on every flight.
“The first flight was fairly eventful with small pilot shoals of sardines sighted between Mdumbi and Hole in the Wall. The most concentrated activity sighted was further south between Chintsa and Gonubie. Hundreds of Cape gannets were seen spread out in this area with a few diving from time to time, accompanied by hundreds of dolphins. There were a few humpback whales that were sighted, all moving northwards. It is however still very early for both the sardines and the humpback whales,” said Thompson.
He did however say that the sardine run and humpback whale migration were not connected but merely coincided with each other.
Thompson said if conditions were suitable, the sardine run may occur any time between early June and late July in KwaZulu-Natal, and may not even occur close inshore, in occasional years for various reasons.
“When the inshore waters are unsuitable, the sardines enter KZN in deeper waters further offshore and there are no visible signs of their presence from the shore. The humpback whale migration however does occur annually, with the majority of the animals arriving off the coast of KZN during the first two weeks of June,” Thompson explained.
However, it was not unusual to see some animals moving through as early as April. The migration was associated with mating and the birth of calves. The whales often move as far north as Mozambique and Madagascar during this period. The return to the feeding grounds in the Antarctic usually begins in September and the majority of humpback whales have left the KZN coastline by the first or second week of December each year, he said.
Thompson said their next flight to East London was scheduled for May 18 but it was dependent on weather conditions.
By mid-June 2020 sardines were spotted and netted along the south coast of KZN.
The sardine run in 2020 turned out to be a bumper one as young and old fishing enthusiasts saw and netted numerous crates along the coast of KZN.
Hundreds of sharks were also spotted along the Durban beachfront.