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28 May 2020

Sardines ignore the lockdown! Sharks Board reports activity south of Port Edward

(South Coast Herald) Picture: Flashback to 2015: Photo by John Lamberti (FILE PHOTO)

In news that is something of a double-edged sword coming as it does during the Covid-19 lockdown, Greg Thompson, Acting HOD of Operations at the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Sharks Board says that they have received numerous reports of large concentrations of sardines and associated activity in the Eastern Cape between East London and Mazeppa Bay. Due to the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 national lockdown and in accordance with lockdown legislation and regulations, all shark safety gear was removed on March 24.

As a result, no sardine surveillance flights, or operational boating activity has been permitted. Therefore, no physical monitoring of sardine activity has been undertaken by the Board. On Monday, May 25 large concentrations of Cape gannet were reportedly seen directly off the Kob Inn at the Qhorha River mouth, 230km south of Port Edward.

The severe cold front with its gale force south westerly winds and large surf which hit the KZN south coast on Tuesday, May 26 could well drive the sardines into deeper water. The shoals could then re-appear inshore along the KZN south coast when the sea and weather conditions settle. Most of the reporting and feedback received is in the inshore areas at the moment.

“There is always a possibility of being surprised by fish which have moved through in the deep, or small pockets without any predators to announce their arrival” said Greg Thompson.

There have been many occasions in the past when predictions and opinions have been totally incorrect. These fish can move through in the deep and out of sight of most predators. There have been many years when they are not seen on the Lower South Coast at all and they have then appeared without warning at Scottburgh, Amanzimtoti and even Durban on occasion.

The Cape gannets are the best indicators of the sardines, says Greg, and are often seen in vast numbers, dropping out of the sky and diving on the shoals of sardines. In a normal scenario, the Sharks Board undertakes routine pre-season aerial surveys and boat trips in order to track the movement of sardines through the Eastern Cape.

They are also in constant contact with shore anglers and dive operations who are based on the Wild Coast and can see the activity passing. They also rely on seine netters who are well informed and who follow the movements of the shoals with great interest.