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Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The “greatest shoal on earth” — the sardine run — has officially begun, with the first big net hauls reported on Sunday morning on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast.

Social media is abuzz with pictures of trek nets bursting with the silvery sardines that arrive en masse most years, much to the delight of many coastal residents who pounce on the visitors.

The fish are also popular with a range of marine predators, which follow the sardines in an extended feeding frenzy. “The little silver fish have officially arrived,” announced South Coast Herald on its Facebook page on Sunday morning. “The first nets of the season were pulled out at Hibberdene Beach and Lucien Beach (near Margate), a short while ago! What a vibe!”

Other websites hosted numerous photos and videos of local fishermen in action, and the fish are reportedly already on sale for R500 a crate. “The great shoal of sardines has just spilt on Manaba Beach, making it a fantastic tourist attraction right now,” said a post on the Tidy Towns Shelly to Margate Facebook page.

Though the sardine run is a natural phenomenon, there is still much debate around the exact cause. It typically takes place between May and July in KwaZulu-Natal’s warmer waters, and the shoals can stretch for 7km and involve billions of fish.

In addition to many predators, such as whales and sharks, the sardines attract many international visitors, some of whom charter vessels to witness the spectacle. One such visitor was American billionaire Gabe Newell, who owns a fleet of superyachts and is involved in marine research. He linked up with local marine stakeholders to experience the 2024 sardine run.

The sardines are expected to head north towards Durban in the coming days, though their movement is largely dependent on the prevailing wind and currents. 

TimesLIVE 

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