Coast KZN

03 Jun 2021

RAINED OUT: Stormy time for sardines

Shona Aylward (South Coast Herald) Picture: Zorann Lottering. The arrival of the little silver fish caused great excitement at Port Edward main beach on Monday this week.

Heavy downpours and thunderstorms have in all likelihood dashed hopes of further sardine activity along the Lower South Coast for the remainder of the week.

However, the Greatest Shoal on Earth did make a surprise appearance at Port Edward on Monday this week. Netters hauled in one medium and one small net of sardines. As it was the first netting of the season, it sold for R1200 per crate and R40 per dozen. However, things changed when the South Coast was hit by a storm on Monday night.

On Tuesday morning, a seven-year-old child was taken to hospital after a wall collapsed during a mudslide at a homestead in Bhomela. The child was trapped under the debris, and was lucky to get out alive.

The cold and wet conditions have continued for most of the week, causing flooding in most places, making the coastal roads dangerous to drive on. There have been reports of fallen trees, debris scattered on the road, sinkholes, collapsed walls, power outages, accidents and flooded roads, houses and a school building.

Due to the inclement weather – the question everyone is asking – is it game over for this year’s Sardine Run? Greg Thompson of the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Sharks Board said that as much as this cold front is badly timed for the pilot shoals which have just made an appearance in KZN, it can also move more fish into the province from the Eastern Cape.

“There is also the possibility that Monday’s pilot shoals can now pop up on the upper South Coast when conditions settle.”

He said that from their observation on flights to the Eastern Cape over the last few weeks, there seems to be a sizeable amount of sardine-related activity.

“Hopefully KZN sees some of the predators associated with the sardine run, such as the thousands of Cape gannets and dolphins which have been spotted in the Eastern Cape waters.”

Well-known fisherman Darrell Hattingh said that sardine pockets will skirt around or avoid the brown water washing down into the sea from the rivers.

“It should clear up in a few days or weeks depending on the rain,” he added.

A local seine netter reported that the water appeared clearer further north on Tuesday.

“Shoals of sardines were spotted close to shore in Scottburgh on Tuesday afternoon. It may turn out to be a good run up north this year,” he said. Mr Thompson conducted the latest sardine observation flight into the Eastern Cape last Thursday. He reported that the water visibility between Waterfall Bluff and Manteku was not ideal, but there were numerous pilot shoals of sardines scattered throughout this area.

“An interesting observation as we moved further south was the sighting of large pods of bottlenose dolphins, moving right inside the backline which we normally associate with sardine movement. There were two pods of about 400 to 500 dolphins per pod between Brazen Head and the Kraal Backpackers.”

Mr Thompson said they won’t be flying this week due to the poor weather and sea conditions.

Bathing is banned from Port Edward to Scottburgh due to the sardine movement and the removal of shark safety gear.