Sardine Festival 2010

Sharks Board

The SardineRun and Sharks Board - Winter 2009

Natal Sharks BoardDuring the winter months the holiday playground off KwaZulu Natal’s South Coast experiences a phenomenon in June or July – The Annual Sardine Run.

For the Natal Sharks Board, this highly anticipated arrival is closely monitored.  Following the coastline from Durban to East London, the NSB”s twin-engined high wing Partenavia 68, crewed by staff members, routinely checks the progress of the sardines as they travel up the eastern seaboard.  This enables the NSB to remove nets ahead of the shoals and allows the movement to pass the popular bathing beaches unhindered by the netting system which is usually in place to protect beach users from shark incidents.

This annual migration of millions of these silvery fish, more correctly named the pilchard, begins 1000 km to the south in the waters off the eastern Aghullas Banks.  Pilchards are found in enormous shoals on the west coasts of California, South America, Japan, Australia and Southern Africa.  Along the Western Cape Coast, large pilchard fisheries catch about 100 000 tonnes of these fish each year.  The industry in this area employs thousands of people in this sector and is the economic backbone to many coastal communities in the area.  Up the East Coast, however, the annual catch drops progressively from 7000 tonnes in the Eastern Cape to 700 tonnes in the KwaZulu-Natal waters.

The sardines are typically found in water between 14°C and 20°C.  During the winter months the existence of the cooler water eastwards along the Eastern Coast towards Port St. Johns expands the suitable habitat for sardines.  North of Port St. Johns, the shoals encounter a narrow band of cool water between the coast and the warm, south-flowing Aghullas current.  As the fish become more concentrated into the narrow inshore band of water, the shoals are quickly found by schools of marauding predators, including copper, dusky, black-tip and spinner sharks, joining the gamefish such as shad, garrick and geelbek and marine mammals like the Cape Fur Seal and dolphins all in hot pursuit of the mass of pilchards.  The shoals are forced up to the surface, Cape Gannets, Cormorants, Terns and Gulls dive from above to get their fill.

So much more at the Sharks Board website:

Sharks and Predators

For your safety during the Sardine Run:

  • Always swim at beaches offering the protection of shark nets.
  • Obey instructions from the lifeguards and swim between the beacons.
  • Do not swim at dawn and dusk when sharks are more active and come inshore to feed.
  • Alcohol and swimming don’t mix.
  • Don’t swim in a dirty water or in a river mouth.
  • Don’t swim with an open sore as sharks can detect blood in the water.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Beware of sunburn and use sunscreen protection – those sun rays can do you harm.
  • Do not swim immediately after consuming a big meal – wait a while.

The Natal Sharks Board wishes all holiday makers and residents of the area a very successful and fun filled Sardine Festival.