16 June 2009

South Africa: Sardine Run 2009

The worldfamous "Sardine Run" is happening every year between May/June and July along the South African East Coast when the sardines spawn in the cool waters of the Agulhas Band and move northward along the coast of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal into Mozambique. The shoals are often more than 7 km long, 1.5 km wide and 30 meters deep and are clearly visible from spotter planes or from the surface. Sardines, like almost all other fish, group together when they feel threatened building so-called "bait balls". Dolphins are mostly the reason why the sardines group together, but once they are a "bait ball" all other hunters of the oceans are showing up - sharks, game fish (mackerel, kingfish, garrick etc.) and even birds are having a feast.

According to some recent news this years run might not be as spectacular as usual. It seems that the water is a little too warm (21°C) - the sardines prefer temperatures around 19°C. Only small pockets of sardines have been sighted close to Port Edward, and the main shoals are hopefully expected to appear over the next week.

Nevertheless the Sardine Festival 13 June – 17 July 2009 has already started, which highlights not only the impending arrival of the fishy visitors from the Cape but also the array of activities which is available on the South Coast during the winter school break. Check the official website for more info - plenty of activities ranging from a MTB race, a jazz festival, airshow, food festivals and much more!


  1. update from Friday, 03 July 2009:

    KZN residents and visitors still waiting for sardines to come. According to Natal Sharks Board spokesperson Debbie Hargreaves sardines had been spotted offshore Port St. Johns by a pilot, but the actual "Sardines Run" hasn't started yet.

  2. update from Wednesday, 15 July 2009:

    The KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board said it was possible that the run moved through the KZN area deep offshore, which was why no sightings had taken place. Debbie Hargreaves, the public relations manager for the Sharks Board, said: "There is a strong possibility that they came our way, passed us and we didn't even know it."

    btw - The Sardine Hotline have also come to a halt.

  3. update from Wednesday, 29 July 2009:

    The KZN Sharks Board is confident the sardines will finally make their way to Durban beaches by the weekend after their arrival in Pennington on the South Coast on Tuesday.