Growing up in Port Shepstone I have seen the largest shoal in the world wash upon our beaches. I remember hundreds and thousands of people gathering with whatever containers they could find to carrying the fresh catch to take home. For weeks on end the sardines smell of fried, curried, and roasted aromas of the South Coast.
You see, each year on the Eastern Coast of South Africa, in the winter months of June/July, the nutrient rich currents that colder water northwards of the Cape also bring millions of pelagic fish: the staple diet of every predator in the area.
The sardines find their strength in numbers, yet are vulnerable to being forced upwards out of the deep, by sharks and dolphins. They form metamorphosing silver bait-balls at the surface, twisting and dividing to avoid the ocean predators.
Some shoals are driven into the shallows, stranded by the beaches of Kwa Zulu Natal, where local people scoop them up in nets, buckets and skirts: this is what has become known as the sardine run.
Commercial netting operations have been built up around the annual event, with some years more successful than others. Locals mention that traps/weirs are now used to divert the schools into their trawlers rather than have them wash upon the shores. The local government should implement by-laws, which protect our marine life to moreover allow the fish, which are also on the run to feast on the event. Instead the greedy opportunists are going to do what the poaches have done to the Rhinos.
This is a place where man and nature are locked in a titanic struggle for survival. When all of these predators and more are hunting the same shoals, what will it take to keep our oceans alive?