The sardines may be en route to KwaZulu-Natal.
Greg Thompson, acting chief of operations for the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board, said Friday activity along the Eastern Cape coast was an indication that sardines might show up soon. However, the tiny fish are known to be unpredictable.
A sardine observation flight was conducted on Thursday.
“From Virginia to Port Edward everything is still pretty calm apart from a few bottlenose dolphins and a few scattered gannets. The water view is still discolored in many areas, making it difficult to observe,” Thompson said.
“The area between Mzamba and Grosvenor was also quiet, but by the time we reached Lupatana, there were two groups of common dolphins about 1 km offshore, charging north. Each group consisted of about 400 animals. The Waterfall Bluff area was also quiet with only a few gannets in the area.
“When we arrived in Mbotyi, we saw the first signs of sardine-related activity with about 600 common dolphins residing in it small groups spread as far north as Poenskop, north of Port St. Johns. Here we encountered a moderate to fresh off-shore crosswind that made it extremely difficult to see activity.
“Water visibility began to improve north of Port St. Johns and as we made our way to Umngazana, sardine-related activity began to increase , along with numerous groups of Bottlenose and Bottlenose Dolphins.
“Then off Rame Head we had more than 15 schools of sardines, all accompanied by dolphins. p>
“Activity continued off Hluleka where we had scattered pockets as well as two very large schools of sardines with shark activity. There was a huge pod of about 1,000 common dolphins feeding here. This activity extended from the backline to the coast as far as you could see.
“We turned at Hole in the Wall and as far south as you could see there was still activity. The last stretch was very active and visibility was very good.”
Thompson said these signs are “all positive that the sardines are making their way from the Eastern Cape to KwaZulu-Natal”.
“Considering that most of the activity for the past week has been much further south than today’s [Thursday] flight, there already appears to have been a significant increase north.
“It chances are the predicted cold front is fairly well timed for this weekend. A cold front can often amplify the movements of the shoals, causing them to move inshore and north at high speeds.
“However, in the past there have been many instances where predictions and opinions have been completely were wrong . These fish can move out of sight of most predators in the deep or discolored water we are witnessing at the moment and arrive in KZN without warning. Then there’s always the chance they’ll move further north on the lower line and we won’t see them at all.”
Every winter, usually June or July, millions of sardines leave the sea’s cold waters off Cape Point and make their way up the coast to KwaZulu-Natal.
Every year, holidaymakers flock to the province to catch a glimpse of the spectacle billed as ‘the largest school of fish on earth ‘ and includes sharks, birds and dolphins in a feeding frenzy as they hunt for the sardines.
Support independent journalism by subscribing to The Sunday Times. Only 20 R for the first month.