4 July 2012 broke with a flurry of activity on Durban beachfront as numerous shoals of sardines made an appearance from just behind the surf zone to about 500m offshore.
Info from Mike Anderson-Reade, Head of Operations at KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board
Unfortunately, most of the seine netters were searching for sardines on the south coast at the time and it took about 2 hours before they arrived in mass. At one stage seven netting boats were out on the water off Durban’s Golden Mile. However, by mid-morning the warm moderate berg wind made it impossible to spot the shoals.
Most of the netters returned to the beach by midday due to these conditions. A strong south-westerly wind was expected in the afternoon and should have moved on by Thursday morning.
Judging by the number of shoals of fish that were seen off Durban on Wednesday, there is a strong possibility that seine netters will try and net in the Durban beachfront and northern beach areas on Thursday, weather conditions permitting.
Although there appears to be minimal predator activity accompanying these shoals, nets have been removed from the most northern beaches on the Durban beachfront as a precautionary measure.
Bathing remains open from Suncoast Casino beach to uShaka inclusive. Sharks Board staff will continue to monitor this rapidly changing situation on a daily basis and remove and replace the shark safety gear as required.
The south coast was fairly quiet today with the exception of a few small pockets of sardines in the Ramsgate area. Shark safety gear is out of the water on the Hibiscus coast at this time, however, staff will continue to monitor these areas and reinstate gear as soon as the activity permits.
For more information, visit www.shark.co.za
On 2 July 2012…
Reports were received on Saturday 30 June 2012 from various reliable sources that small pockets of sardines had been spotted at Red Sands on the Eastern Cape Coast just to the south of the Wild Coast Sun Casino.
Shark safety gear on the lower south coast was removed with the exception of the gear at San Lameer, Margate , St Michaels, Umzumbe and Hibberdene. The gear at these selected beaches was left intact to provide a spread of safe bathing for visitors to the lower south coast.
On the morning of 2 July, reports were received of small shoals of sardines at various locations on the lower south coast. An observation flight was undertaken to confirm these. Seine netters managed to net sardines at Hibberdene and the first net produced 280 baskets of sardines (each basket contains between 28 and 30 dozen sardines).
The second net was very small and only 10 baskets of sardine were netted. The shoals of sardines are very small and are moving quickly northwards. There are no signs of any predators accompanying these small shoals. Five seine net boats were seen at Mtwalume however at the time of writing no further netting had taken place. Unfortunately, the moderate south westerly wind makes it very difficult for the netters to spot the shoals.
Hopefully netting will continue once the wind has abated and conditions calm over the next few days.
Shark safety gear has been removed from Hibberdene and Umzumbe and bathers are requested to chat to the lifeguards regarding the status of bathing when visiting beaches south of Hibberdene. The KZNSB will continue to monitor the activity on a daily basis.
Previously, on 13 June 2012…
Varying numbers of Cape gannets were reported along the lower south coast on Monday morning. KZNSB staff were sent to various locations between Hibberdene and Port Edward to confirm these reports. We suspect that the majority of these birds have arrived off KZN due to the strong south westerly winds that were experienced with the frontal system on Sunday evening.
Gannets do not roost on land away from their breeding islands and, therefore, either sit out strong wind periods sitting on the sea surface or occasionally remain on the wing. They can drift many kilometres with the wind, depending on wind strength and velocity.
All shark safety gear that was remaining in the water on the lower south coast was serviced by the KZNSB at first light on Monday and there were no captures. Further reports of sardine-associated activity were received during the early afternoon and the KZNSB dispatched the aircraft in an attempt to confirm the presence or otherwise of sardines.
From the aerial observations of the gannet activity, it appeared that there may have been some small shoals on the lower south coast between Umtentweni and the Wild Coast Casino. KZNSB craft were dispatched to sea at about 15h00 to remove the remaining shark safety gear as a precautionary measure to avoid any unnecessary captures. This was concluded with no captures at about 16h45.
On 12 June, reports of three small pockets of sardines between Port Edward and Leisure Bay were received. Commercial sardine seine netters rushed to the area and spent most of the morning watching for further signs of fish. Unfortunately there is a strong 1.5m swell in the area which prevented any of the netters launching to confirm the presence of sardines.
The KZNSB will undertake the next aerial observation flight on Thursday this week.