LOOK: Sardines netted on Toti beach

By Zainul Dawood Time of article published Jul 21, 2020

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Durban- Sardines were netted at Illovo and Amanzimtoti Beach south of Durban on Tuesday. 

Seasoned netter Brahmanand Tony Outar and brothers Wesley and Mike Gradwell in a joint operation hauled in a small quantity of sardines. 

Outar said approximately 70 to 80 crates of sardines were in the net.

KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board explained that each year in June or July along the KwaZulu-Natal coast  plenty for all as large shoals of sardines move in a band up the coast. Sardines (also known as pilchards) like their close relatives, the anchovies and herrings, sardines (Sardinops sagax) live out their lives in huge shoals in the surface layers of the ocean. 

Although these fish are small, collectively they comprise nearly a quarter of the world's fish catch by weight, making them one of our most valuable groups of fish.

Sardines are cold-water fish and are usually associated with areas of cold ocean upwelling, where deeper, cooler, nutrient-rich water currents surge to the surface when they strike shallow coastal areas. Sardines are commonly found in enormous shoals on the west coasts of California, South America, Japan, Australia and, of course, southern Africa.

In the large sardine (pilchard) fishery along the Western Cape coast, about 200 000 tonnes are caught annually.

Sardines netted on Tuesday at Illovo Beach. Picture by Brahmanand Outar

Once a shoal has been located, huge nets are used to encircle and draw the fish up alongside the vessel before they are pumped on board. 

Sardines live fast and die young. They grow rapidly to reach a length of just under 20 cm and sexual maturity in two years, but rarely live longer than three years. In compensation, they are highly fecund, each female producing many thousands of eggs in her short lifespan. The main spawning grounds are on the Agulhas banks off the southern Cape coast, where the adults gather for a prolonged breeding season through spring and early summer. The eggs are simply released into the water, fertilized and left to drift off in the open ocean. A benign ocean current carries most of the developing larvae westwards and northwards into the productive waters along the west coast. After growing into juvenile fish that are strong enough to swim against the current, they aggregate into dense shoals and slowly make their way back to their spawning grounds in the south, thereby completing their life cycle.

Sardines feed primarily on plankton, minute plants and animals that they filter from the sea using sieve-like gill rakers. Shoals of sardines are pushed ashore during the famous 'Sardine Run'.  These shoals take advantage of cool water on the continental shelf of the east coast that occurs seasonally as a narrow band between the coast and the warm, southward flowing Agulhas Current.

KZNSB Acting HOD: Operations Greg Thompson said 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 the 24th of March. 

"We have not been given a date as to when the beaches will be opened. Only then will we plan the installation of shark safety gear,"he said. 

- Additional information supplied by KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board website 

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