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December 08, 2011

Sardine run – A Cape Town Tourism photo essay

Shoals of sardines were recently trapped along the Atlantic coast. They moved into Hout Bay and surrounding areas causing a frenzy of activity for fishermen, seals and dolphins. This has happened before, but not in recent memory and certainly not in such vast quantities. In November 2009 we saw a similar phenomenon with anchovies, but it only lasted a day. 

Steve Benjamin from Animal Ocean, together with with photographers Jean Tresfon (me) and Graham Fenwick, headed out on a Sunday morning to look for shoals of fish being eaten by seals. We found this happening in a small bay under Chapman's Peak Drive, where large pockets of fish were trapped in shallow, clean water with hundreds of seals in pursuit. 

The seals seemed to favour the tiny loose shoals of two to five fish and they chased them like dogs after a tennis ball. I saw numerous seals biting sardines and not consuming them, a massacre of injured and flailing fish. The theory as to why the fish were trapped is that they were caught close to shore by a sudden drop in water temperature caused by a strong southeasterly wind. The thermal shock stressed the fish and the predators took advantage. 

The fish were thin and weak, looking disoriented and lost. This experience was rare and I am so glad we made the extra effort to get out there. These events happen quickly and you just can't put it off till tomorrow, you must act now. 

Adventure divers put in great effort and money to travel around the world to see unique marine events and one just happened on our doorstep. There are so many incredible wildlife experiences to be had right here in our regular coastal waters, if you know what to look for.

Images © jtresfon


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