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On South Africa’s “Sardine Run”

Today’s post is an e-mail I received from a South African reader/writer currently living in Scotland regarding "On the Feelings of Fish."

really enjoyed this article mary, so glad you are willing to stand up and be counted for the scaly ones.

on the hibiscus coast of kwazulu, we have a yearly miracle …called ‘the sardine run’. this wonder takes place around june/july, people especially fishermen will book their vacations in the hope of their presence coinciding with "the run". of course the sardines arrive when it suits them…something to do with currents and ocean temperatures! the sardines are followed by hungry game fish and wheeling, diving sea birds in search of a bite. it is a spectacular sight, once observed, forever cherished in the memory. point of the story is…sometimes whilst running from the game fish the sardines are driven in to the shallow waters, near the shore. millions of them, a glittering, silver extravaganza! the word goes out, the fishermen wait in their 4×4’s all along the coast, binoculars trained on the sea, looking for the dark shadow which announces the presence of the elusive shoals. people, the public, are so overcome with this bounty, this over abundance … they run into the sea fully clothed attempting to catch the sardines with any receptacle they have to hand. i have seen old women struggling out of the surf, clutching there skirts …full of sardines, about their waists. no thought given to their dignity or voluminous thighs, driven by the killing greed.

and then, the professional fishermen arrive, in their vehicles, with boats and nets. i have seen the wonderful, glittering, silvery shoal dragged ashore, crushed together, drowning in the air. i have watched them die, their silver turning the greeny brown of mildew and death. once free and living, running from their predators…maybe. at least nature knows enough to take what it needs and leave enough for tomorrow. man takes everything he can lay his hands on, no matter his need. what happens to these "now so very dead" sardines, they are frozen and sold and used as bait… to catch "bigger and better" fish.

so, although i am still an unconverted flesh eater, i feel i should thank you for bringing to the attention of the world … the plight of the often forgotten fish. although they are not cute and cuddly…they are no less of this world than the rest of us.

–Eryll Oellermann (who just last week started a blog at

Go to for photos and more. Be warned it’s the site of a diving company. Naturally, human beings have managed to make the sardine run into a tourist attraction.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. The Sardine Run is restricted to advanced divers only. The activity as a whole is considered to be strenuous. There is no hospital nearby so you should be in very good health. The activity is strictly for the avid diver/photographer. Non-diving guests are welcome to join the fun and ride on the boat to witness the surface activity but must understand the boat is a "duck" and does not have toilet facilities or any shade.

    May 5, 2010
  2. Sardine Run South Africa,
    I can only assume that you do not realize that it is not the divers that we here at Animal Person are worried about. The "fun" and "activity" you write of is agonizing death for the sardines. The fisherpeople choose to cause grave suffering and kill the fishes, and that is nothing to be proud of . . . or to build tourism around and profit from even further. It is shameful for all involved.

    May 5, 2010

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