Warmer ocean brings fewer sardines to S.Africa

Jun 22, 2009
South Africans secure thousands of sardines in a net in Sezela, 2002. A researcher said that millions of sardines have begun their annual migration down South Africa's east coast, but fewer fish are making the journey due to rising ocean temperatures.

Millions of sardines have begun their annual migration down South Africa's east coast, but fewer fish are making the journey due to rising ocean temperatures, a researcher said Monday.

Known as the Sardine Run, the spectacular marine with schools miles long attracts dolphins and birds, spawning a cottage industry for the tourists who flock to the coast in KwaZulu-Natal province to witness the spectacle.

"Our best Sardine Runs happen when the water is cold. Water is still warm along the KwaZulu-Natal coast and at this stage, things are not looking good," said Sean O'Donoghue, a researcher at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

In winter, when the ocean's temperature dips below 20 degrees (68 Fahrenheit), millions of sardines travel 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) along the coast up as far as the port city of Durban.

"The temperature along the KwaZulu-Natal coast is rising just above what sardines can tolerate," O'Donoghue told AFP.

"We are really at the limit. If the temperature gets warmer with the ... sardines are unlikely to come as far up the coast," he said.

The Sardine Run plays a critical role in the region's marine ecosystem. Tens of thousands of dolphins, a thousand and more than 100,000 sea birds feed off the sardines when they pass through the coast waters that offer little nutrition during the rest of the year.

Up to 10 million fish join the migration, which attracts about 100,000 visitors to the coast during June and July.

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: Climate change increases risk of crop slowdown in next 20 years

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Warmer water leaves sea birds hungry

Apr 06, 2007

U.S. researchers say warmer currents from the Gulf of Alaska may not be producing enough plankton to support West Coast seabirds.

Ocean temperature predicts spread of marine species

Dec 26, 2006

Scientists can predict how the distance marine larvae travel varies with ocean temperature – a key component in conservation and management of fish, shellfish and other marine species – according to a new study from the ...

Seabird deaths worry scientists

Jan 30, 2006

The mass starvation of seabirds along the U.S. west coast that is causing concern among environmental scientists.

Chemicals blamed in South Africa fish kill

Dec 31, 2007

South African industrialist Carl Webb has blamed illegal chemical dumping in Umbilo Canal for the large numbers of dead fish turning up in Durban Harbor.

Recommended for you

US plans widespread seismic testing of sea floor

4 hours ago

(AP)—The U.S. government is planning to use sound blasting to conduct research on the ocean floor along most of the East Coast, using technology similar to that which led to a court battle by environmentalists in New Jersey.

Fire ecology manipulation by California native cultures

4 hours ago

Before the colonial era, 100,000s of people lived on the land now called California, and many of their cultures manipulated fire to control the availability of plants they used for food, fuel, tools, and ritual. Contemporary ...

User comments : 0