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Durban - Numerous shoals of various species of bait-fish can be seen off the KwaZulu-Natal coast daily especially during periods of calm sea conditions, said Mike Anderson-Reade, head of operations at the KZN Sharks Board.

This comes after the second monitoring flight of the 2018 sardine season where aerial observations of the highest concentration of shoals were made between uMhlanga Rocks and eManzimtoti as well as off Port Edward on the South Coast.

“Small numbers of sardines will often be found among these other species of bait fish,” said Anderson-Reade.

He added that the first positive signs of heavy predator activity, which is normally associated with sardines, was seen about 5km to the north of Cobb Inn stretching southwards to just south of Mazeppa Point on the Eastern Cape coast.

“Thousands of common dolphin and Cape gannets were observed diving and feeding on what we suspect were shoals of sardines,” Anderson-Reade said.

Sightings along the Eastern Cape coast were positive but because the area is roughly 200km south of KZN it would take the shoals of bait fish some time to travel towards the KZN coast, if the shoals are to travel northwards.

“However, that does not exclude the possibility of some small shoals of sardines currently occurring off the KZN coast,” said Anderson-Reade.

He added that shark safety nets remained in place at all protected beaches along the coast with the exception of certain central Durban beaches which were closed for sand replenishment operations.

“The board’s interest in the annual sardine run is to ensure that any shoals of sardines that are accompanied by large groups of predators are monitored and that the shark safety gear is managed accordingly to minimise any negative environmental impact of the gear,” said Anderson-Reade.

The board has scheduled its third monitoring flight of the 2018 sardine season for this week, depending on the weather.

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