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About the Sardine Run - An allmost yearly occurance along the KZN coast
It runs along the South Coast, from the Wild Coast past Margate, Amanzimtoti, Durban, Umhlanga, Richardsbay and up the East Coast
Every year around June and July the Indian Ocean transforms with the extremely popular sardine run / sardine migration taking place when these massive shoals of sardines comes down the coast from their breeding spot at Agulhas Banks off the southern Cape coast. This is one of the largest marine events on the planet! Following the millions of sardines all the way down the coast are plenty of bird life. common dolphins, Copper sharks, whales and Cape ganets are key sardine shoal predators following them nortwards along the east coast. The Cape gannets dive towards the shoals like kamakazi or jet fighters and plunge right into the shoals to feed on the sardines. The sardine migration is recognized as a unique occurrence to be seen nowhere else in the world.

When the ocean temperatures drop at the beginning of winter (which isn't that cold to Gautengers in KwaZulu-Natal!) the Sardine shoals normally swim from the Agulhas-bank North up the coast. At the Eastern Cape coast the shoals generally swim far out in the deep ocean waters and then move much more closer to the coast line as they swim towards the KwaZulu-Natal coast and sometimes almost into the beach breakers at Amanzimtoti.
Sardines are also known as pilchards and are close relatives of herrings and anchovies. The canned pilchards are a favorite among South Africans. Sardines are cold water fish and rely on phytoplankton and other minute aquatic animals called zooplankton for food. They form part of the most valuable group of fish to be caught annualy.
Adult sardines are around 19cm long and live to about 2 to 3 years old. Spawning takes place at the Agulhas Banks off the southern Cape coast.

Grab a bucket and join in the excitement of scooping up these little fish as they beach, chased closer to the shore by other bigger species of fish, or else sit down and watch the birds dipping and diving after the fish. Or watch the fisherman scooping up huge amounts of sardines with their nets. They also sell them right there at the spot, from one to cooler bags full, and fresher than that you cannot get. You will soon after that also be able to by them next to the road if you had missed the catch.

With the sardine run obviously comes the urge to do something with this abundance of fish, and the following recipes are just the thing to fulfill that urge.

The following is a sardine braai (barbeque) bread with salsa, serving 4 people:
  • 8 sardine fillets (heads and tails removed)
  • 1 fine chopped red onion
  • 4 chopped tomatoes
  • 30 gram fresh chopped coriander
  • 2 chopped garlic cloves
  • 20 ml sugar
  • 20 ml vinegar
  • 20 ml olive oil
  • 1 lemon cut to thin slices with salt and black pepper according to taste
  • fresh thyme for garnering
  • 8 slices Italian bread
Mix the onion, tomatoes, coriander, garlic, vinegar and sugar in a small bowl.
Spread some olive oil on the bread and braai to golden brown.
Cut each sardine in the length and fill with thyme and the lemon slices.
Sprinkle with salt and freshly grinded black pepper.
Braai for +- 5 minutes each side until crispy.
Place some salsa on the bread.
Place the sardines on top of the salsa and serve with the remaining salsa.

  • According to some the Sardine Run will become a less regular seen occurance due to global warming and the related warming of ocean waters around our coastline. In the beginning the shoals will most likely often move to more deeper waters. Scary but reality...
    To give you an factual example of what is happening on the highveld. In Pretoria and Johannesburg during the seventies and earlier, every winter bird baths would freeze with at least a 1mm ice layer above the water overnight and on a regular basis garden hosepipes lying in the garden overnight would be filled with ice. This just doesn't happen anymore on a regular basis, it's a very seldom occurance nowadays!

20120703 A reader (MEK) informed us that a few small Sardine shoals have just landed at Hiberdene.

20120521 According to Mr. Mike Anderson-Reade, operational head at the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board, KwaZulu-Natal might have a massive early Sardine run this year if looking at the yearly movement of Sardines from the South Cape coast to the east coast until now. They saw signs of Sardine Shoals close to the Transkei Wild Coast where lots of dolphins and "malgasse" were feeding on them. This is the first time in ten years that he saw shoals in May already within one hundrek kilometres of the KwaZulu-Natal Coast. Due to a cold front that was set to hit KwaZulu-Natal this past weekend the Sharks Board has removed the shark nets past the South Coast so that the sharks and dolphins feeding on these little silver fish don't get entangled in the nets.
The past six weeks already hunters were feasting on the Sardine shoals at Cape St Francis, Port Alfred and Port Elizabeth and Anderson-Reade suspects the Sardines being so far North already to be only the fore runners to the Sardine Run.

20110622 KwaZulu-Natal might this year provide for another unforgettable experience! Thousands of birds and dolphins were after sardine shoals for about six kilometres from Brazen Head up to the Umtatariver lagoon in the Wild Coast. This is what Mr. Mike Anderson-Reade, operational head at the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board, faced while flying along the coast to investigate the progress of the yearly sardine migration.
"It was a massive shoal of sardines and if continuing to swim North towards the KwaZulu-Natal coast it might become a spectacular event this year!"
There were also a large collection of predators at Port Grosvenor which is north of Waterfall Bluff where sardine shoals normally abide before swimming along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline.
He expects these sardines to reach the KwaZulu-Natala coast this week already.

An unforgettable experience not to be missed!

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