21 July Sardine Report 2019

21 July Sardine Report 2019

It’s been another cracking sardine season for the sardine run operators down in the Transkei and Natal. These guys have encountered bait balls daily and have been getting some spectacular video material, which we will get to see soon enough.

To make sure we are on top of things, we headed south on sardine patrol, and have the following to report.

July Sardine Report 2019

Port St Johns

Arriving in Port St Johns, we could already feel the buzz. The Umzimvubu was looking delightfully clean and there were boats everywhere. Anglers anchored in the channels, we saw one guy boat a 12kg class Garrick and a little Kob. Sardine safari boats moored at the line of jetties, all prepared for the mornings adventures.

We visited Offshore Africa down on the river, who run sardine run trips for two months through the season. Rob Nettleton and Debbie Smith (The Shark Lady), the operators, live in Port St. Johns and are consummate professionals in what they do. They chuck you right in with the sardines and sharks!

Chatting to Richie O’Connell who leads one of the boats, “You don’t even need a baitball to find and swim with sharks. They’re everywhere!”.

Rob showed me some of this year’s footage, the cameras are dressed up with much better and wider lenses making it possible to really capture all that is going on down there. Stay posted for this material when it comes out, it is truly work of underwater art.

Through the three days we spent scouring the views around Port St. Johns, we saw lots birds running south still. Some just sitting on the water too full to fly. And the odd dive bomber as sporadic shoals moved through under the surface. But the sardine spotters travelled north and south and every day out they have jumped in with sardines. Rob was on day 33!


Great views and nice swells greeted us here. But again, we never saw any real hot action from the shore. Lots of birds. Oil slicks from previous sorties. Crystal clear water. Very fishy looking.

21 July Sardine Report 2019
21 July Sardine Report 2019

Coffee Bay

We stayed at the pretty Coffee Shack where they installed us in the King’s House. A delightful cottage overlooking the entire bay flanked by the Sugarloaf and the Mbomvu point. Four delicious shad for breakfast.

The action was absolutely wild!

Shoals of sardines were being driven to the surface. Mainly it was dolphins but we also saw sharks breaching and some outsized yellowfin tuna. The gannets were raining down like bombs. And this was just the first shoal. They just kept coming through sporadically throughout the entire day. The huge waves, well ok 2 to 3m, were kind of keeping the action on the backline and only one occasion did they come right into the white water where they were obliterated.


When we came over the hill, the vista was unexpected. Waves were reeling down the point, the sand was connecting across the entire bay! There were a bunch of guys on it but the waves were plentiful and everyone was mellow.

There were birds diving and some dolphins were hunting but the water never smelled fishy and the surf continued even better the next day. When a fabulous Berg wind kicked mid-morning and painted the prettiest surfing picture I have seen for a while. Then the huge west that is currently blowing a gale at about 40 knots hit hard and so we moved on to the other side of the river to Freedom O’ Clock to catch up a bit.

And we got to throw a little video together quick…

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Get in touch via umzimkulu@gmail.com if you would like to join us for The Sardine Run next year.

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Trawler Watch 2017: Fishing Trawler spotted trawling at Mdumbi!

Trawler spotted trawling at Mdumbi!

Trawler spotted trawling at Mdumbi!

Our deep undercover sardine spy Robbie van Wijk reports of an alleged trawler spotted trawling at Mdumbi just yesterday! Could this be one of the three “legal” ships (Japanese with permits from the totally ineffectual DAFF), that have been spotted up and down all over? Robbie just has this photo for proof.

Fishing Trawler spotted trawling at Mdumbi!

Fishing Trawler spotted trawling at Mdumbi!

The trawler had nets out and was heading NE, at trawling speed!

Targeting sardines no doubt! But imagine the destruction they are causing to the reefs and eco-system! Trawls carry the most destructive fishing equipment known to man. And are illegal in most places. They are most likely purse seine fishing, but still – WHOSE FISH ARE THEY?! The Japanese’? And who is policing their methods?

And there is more, when I contact DAFF (Department of Forestry and Fisheries or whatever), they could NOT TELL ME WHERE TO REPORT this type of suspicious activity!

We checked the AIS system (a global map of every legitimate ship on the planet – please check it out at http://marinetraffic.com – such important information to cross reference with), only to find that the “legal” Japanese KOEI MARU No. 1 was in fact off Durban. And the only other boats in the area where Robbie spotted the trawler, are a patrol boat (weirdly enough – full of gunmen as reported by AIS – could be the Sarah Baardman – hopefully), and another unpurposed one, as far as AIS is fed this information. The MSC Rania (not guilty of anything I assure), was the only other vessel reporting itself, for hundreds of miles up and down.

So, a ship without it’s AIS system on. That surely is a guilty ship.

It was a very ironic post that Robbie made from Mdumbi last year this time. It says it all in one photograph. How far did these “South African” sardines travel, before going on sale, back where they came from? I know Lucky Star is a local brand, but are they catching these fish? Is this their boat? Then why the Japanese and Chinese boats? With permits? From our very own DAFF?! (DOFF).

Lucky Star South African Sardines spotted off Umzumbe

Lucky Star South African Sardines spotted off Umdumbi

I have been receiving offers for fresh frozen sardines in my inbox (someone spammed me with a subscription to this seafood industry bunch, so I play along, to keep getting the info), way before the sardine season even though of starting. In fact back in January and February were my first emails received – selling by the tonne!

Enjoy the read…

Dear Sir,

Good morning.

We now have several containers’ products coming soon, please kindly advise, thanks.

#15 Frozen Seafood Mix

Ingredients: Squid Rings/ Tentacles/ Strips/Cut/Head, Octopus Cut/Strip, Baby Octopus, Mussels meat, Shrimps, etc.

Glazing: 0-20%, Package: 24 *1 lb.

#1 Sardine 6-10 pcs/kg Market / Bait

Product Name: Frozen W/R Sardine for Market / Bait purpose

Specification: 6-10 pcs/kg, BQF, Light Purse Seine, Land Frozen

#2 Sardine 6-10 pcs/kg Canning

Product Name: Frozen W/R Sardine for Canning purpose

Specification: 6-10 pcs/kg, BQF, Trawl, Land Frozen

#3 Scad (Horse Mackerel) 8-10 pcs/kg Market

Product Name: Frozen W/R Scad (Horse Mackerel) for Market purpose

Specification: 8-10 pcs/kg, BQF, Light Purse Seine, Land Frozen

Kindly let us know the name of your destination port. More products information including pictures and price will be sent according to your respond.

Thanks and warmly regards.

I accept that most of this seafood is likely not from our waters. But who is to tell?

And a few more pics of Mdumbi, by Robbie van Wijk, showing the beauty of the place’s waters that we need to protect from exploitation by few, against the will of the public whole. One shot featuring the Sarah Baardman on patrol, about a month back. That is one mean boat and they would know about every ship for a thousand miles around, just with their own equipment, let alone AIS. So hopefully they have their orders to chase and apprehend, as they did last year, with three captures out of nine reported incursions, by foreign vessels. Or are they just on parade?

Ok, but there is something we can do. Since we are the culprits in the first place.

Yes, it’s us.

The buyers of canned fish. We pay for those ships. We pay those politicians their bribes. We pay for the destruction. We even pay for the Sarah Baardman, through taxes! We are paying for both sides?!

And only we can stop the mayhem. By not buying tinned fish. Ever again. No sardines. No tuna. No mackerel. No Anchovies. Etc…

Take the power back!

You would be doing so much good, on so many levels.