Lack of sea currents delay the sardine run

Experts believe the lack of currents in the sea off KwaZulu-Natal's South Coast is what is keeping the silvery shoals away.

The KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board told Sowetan yesterday that "no show of the sardines" along the province's coastline this year could be attributed to the lack of sea currents to move them to the Wild Coast.

Board chief executive Mike Anderson-Read said the temperature of the water and the lack of currents might be among the reasons why the sardines did not flock to the South Coast this year.

He said while there was no absolute explanation of what could be delaying the sardines, he was convinced that their nonappearance was also be due to the decline of fish on the East Coast.

He said this behaviour had been recorded several times over the past 25 years.

"Sardines have been netted in KwaZulu-Natal in August and even as late as September, but this is a rare occurrence and hopes for a good inshore run of these fish for this year are dwindling," Anderson-Read said.

Members of the board's operations and research staff undertook a sardine survey flight on Tuesday.

Anderson-Read said during the exercise the weather and sea conditions were perfect for observation, but unfortunately only a few small shoals of what looked like red-eye sardines were spotted close inshore on the South Coast.

"Intense sardine activity was observed off the Wild Coast from Port Grosvenor southwards to Port St Johns," he said.

Hundreds of common and bottlenose dolphins as well as thousands of Cape Gannets are still feeding on shoals of sardine in this area as they have done over the past four to five weeks.

This activity has unfortunately remained static for many weeks and is showing no sign of moving northwards .

All shark safety gear along the South Coast have been reinstated.

Every year in June locals and fisherman are gripped with sardine fever. For the past 11 years sardine runs had taken place in June.

The annual Sardine Festival takes place in Port Edward, where thousands of visitors flock to its shores.