Coast KZN

25 Apr 2020

Durban’s poor anglers eye bumper sardine run

Tanya Waterworth (Independent on Saturday) Picture: Durban netter Goolam Essack gets his gear ready for this year’s Sardine Run. Sardine shoals have been spotted in waters off Port Elizabeth. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad (ANA)

Durban – Huge shoals of sardines have been spotted off the coast of Port Elizabeth and this year’s annual sardine run could be nature’s bounty, helping to fill hungry mouths in the lean months to come. This, as the country’s Covid-19 lockdown will be partially lifted after Friday, as the government and industry try to ease the economy into action. Business for South Africa has estimated 1 million job losses because of the pandemic.

On Thursday, Durban’s well-known sardine netter, Goolam Essack, 70, from Welbedacht in Chatsworth, confirmed he had received word from down the coast that huge shoals had been spotted. With bumper shoals being enjoyed by fans of the small fish last year, Essack said: “I think this year there are going to be some of the biggest shoals we’ve seen for a long time. I’m ready. When the fish come, I’ll be there,” said Essack.

He has been a sardine netter since he was 10 years old, when he learned how to net from his father. Essack said hunger was already biting his local community because people were out of work or had been unable to work since the lockdown began.

“There are a lot of people in Welbedacht who have small or informal businesses. People are really battling now and some have no food. One lady came to my daughter’s tuckshop this week to buy one loaf of bread to last a few days. We are waiting for the government to come and help the people here, there has been no testing and hardly anyone has face masks,” he said.

Essack will take his team down the coast when the shoals start to arrive.

“I have about 20 crew members and we will observe social distancing when we are netting this year, and they will all have masks,” he said.

A resident of Wellbedacht, who did not wish to be named, told the Independent on Saturday that his family was existing on bread and milk.

“I have no work at the moment, it’s very difficult. We can only eat once a day,” he said.

On Thursday, sardine fisherman Gary Hook, formerly from Durban but now living in Port Elizabeth, confirmed shoals were in Eastern Cape waters.

“They normally get here about this time of year. There are very large shoals passing close inshore,” said Hook.

The KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board has been closed during the lockdown period and shark nets were all lifted along the coastline for this period, allowing free movement of marine life, including sharks and dolphins.

Recreational fishing is banned during lockdown