The sardines have landed!

2011-06-21 00:00

EXCITED locals and eager fishermen welcomed the first shoal of sardines that appeared off Hibberdene yesterday.

Small pockets of sardines, referred to as “pilot shoals” appeared between Mfazazana, north of Hibberdene and Margate beaches.

Charter companies filled the shore with their boats and nets at 7.30 am, ready to get their share of the silvery fish, while locals looked on hoping to get a few freebies.

Johnny de Wet, Hibiscus Coast Deputy Mayor, said the sardines could not have arrived at a better time.

“This is fantastic for tourism and I hope we see many shoals on the South Coast,” said De Wet.

The sardines move up the South Coast every year, but he still felt excited, he added.

“The Sardine Festival is about to begin and we’re glad the role players — the sardines — are here,” said De Wet.

Ntombifikile Gumede, Ugu District Mayor, said holidaymakers who are about to arrive on the South Coast at the start of the school holidays on Friday will be happy to know about the sardine activity on South Coast beaches.

“I’m sure that those who decided to start their holiday a few days earlier feel lucky to experience the sardine rush,” said Gumede.

Michael Bertram, chief executive officer for Ugu South Coast Tourism, echoed the sentiments of the mayors, saying the arrival of the sardines has certainly added to the holiday vibe.

“We’re looking forward to a bumper holiday season and an awesome sardine festival programme, jam-packed with exciting things,” said Bertram.

Some locals were surprised to see the shoals being netted as the water was still fairly warm and there were no seagulls present.

“Cold water and the presence of the seagulls are usually the first signs that the sardines are on their way, but we haven’t experienced any of that,” said Morgan Naidoo, an onlooker.

Mike Anderson-Reade, head of operations of the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board, said that although water visibility at Hibberdene beach is fairly poor, the sardines were visible as they surfaced.

“The first net-out consisted of 25 baskets. Other netters also attempted to net sardines at Banana Beach,” said Anderson-Reade.

He said no bird activity accompanied the shoals, but about 500 common dolphins moved through the Margate area during the early morning.

There appeared to be a number of sharks among the sardines, but they could not be readily identified due to the poor water visibility, he added.

“This is not the main shoal of sardines.

“We would expect this early activity to move relatively quickly northwards over the next few days,” said Anderson-Reade.

Bobby Naidoo of First Light Fisheries first netted 25 crates and then a further 33. The going rate was R700 per crate or R30 per dozen.

Durban fishery owners flocked to Hibberdene Beach and within minutes the 58 crates were sold.

“We were lucky to have had two successful nettings. Some of the other netters battled,” said Naidoo.

Another charter experienced problems with nets and lost all of its sardines.

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