By Josie February 23rd, 2023
A recent interpretation is that the Sardine Run is a seasonal reproductive migration of a genetically distinct population of sardine.
Their passage has to do with the cold currents that stretch along the coast of South Africa, for these currents produce a great deal of plankton
Sardines mate and spawn on the Agulhas banks off the southern Cape coast and their fertilised eggs are left to float on the waters of the open sea, where they are carried north west.
To minimise their risk of being eaten the sardines converge and travel in huge shoals.
The sardine shoals are often more than 4,5 miles long and one mile wide.
The large shoals become targets for a whole group of predators.
Birds, larger fish, sharks, whales and dolphins – all join in the feeding frenzy.
Let's look closer at these animals:
The dolphins are thought to be critical players in the run because they do most of the hard work by herding the fish.
They nest on open ground and the cliffs of offshore islands.
The Cape gannet is listed as vulnerable since it has a very small breeding range on just six islands.
This species is an inquisitive and friendly animal when in the water and will often accompany scuba divers.
On land, they are far less relaxed and tend to panic when people come near them.
They are swift and energetic sharks – known to leap out of the water and spin three or four times about its axis before landing
The blacktip shark is a species of requiem shark.
They are extremely long-lived and may survive up to half a century, but they are slow to grow and to reproduce.
This, along with their territorial pride, results in small, isolated communities.
This is the only whale that can be observed feeding on the sardine bait balls of South Africa’s annual sardine run.
Shallow bait balls will often be engulfed in their entirety by these baleens.
These frequent sightings lead many visitors to incorrectly believe that their presence is related to the Sardine Run, but they are just there at the right time during their migration.
Head to our website to find tour-operators if you want to witness this phenomenon in real life!