Scientists say KwaZulu-Natal is likely to experience another great sardine run this year.
Billions of fish make their way from the Cape Augulhas Bank, past the province coast up north to Mozambique and finally the Indian Ocean, annually.
Experts say a great shoal has already been spotted in in the Plettenburg Bay area of the Western Cape.
The countdown to the much anticipated ocean spectacle along the KwaZulu-Natal south coast has begun. The Great Sardine Run is expected towards the end of May.
The tourism sector believes this phenomenon will attract thousands of visitors to the province, bringing much needed relief to an industry hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the July unrest nd most recently the devastating floods.
CEO of Ugu South Coast Tourism, Phelisa Mangcu says, “Visitors have not been able to enjoy the world-renowned spectacle for the past two years due to lockdown restrictions.”
Mangcu says hotels along the coast are expecting an influx of visitors this year.
“We hope, pray and cross our fingers that they do come as a destination. We can create that excitement. The tourism industry has been slow for almost two years. I mean, if it was not COVID, it was the riots in July, and now the recent floods. Sardines they become a tool for us, That’s from people coming to the South Coast to enjoy this spectacle . There is the benefit to a guesthouse, to our B&Bs.”
Scientists say KwaZulu-Natal is set to experience another bumper season. Dr Ryan Daly of the Oceanographic Research Institute in Durban elaborates.
“Yes the sardine run is always difficult to predict, but certainly in 2020, with a really good year 2021 was another good year. And if those last few years go by, we hope to get another good run, but remains unpredictable. And all we can do is wait and see what happens at the end of this month.”
Dr Daly says although the recent floods in KZN caused a surge in water as well as debris into the Indian Ocean – the impact on the ocean has largely passed and therefore it shouldn’t influence the arrival of the sardines.
“The sardine run starts all the way down the coast and at the moment down Bay we had a more of a drought and a flood. So the flood has been largely localized in KZN. But we’re already seeing the impact of the flood that needs to dissipate. So I hope by the end of the month, it could all be clear and back to good conditions for the sardine run.”
The shoal also attracts fishermen who benefit commercially. Small scale fishermen have mixed feelings about the arrival of sardines. These fishermen say the arrival of sardines bring bigger fish.
“With the sardine come the big fish and that’s basically our Christmas so we are looking forward to that.”
“The arrival of the sardines that’s a good sign, so fisherman know in all the fishing activities will be greater and the chance of catching good fish better but the same time because there’s so much bait in the see, the fish will take longer to come to our bait. They will be bust eating the sardines because it completely fills the net. We got a chance of catching and they sell to retailers. We can make a living, it’s a very good sign. Once a year fisherman looks forward to sardines,” added another fisherman.