Sharks, dolphins, gamefish and birds all compete for a share: Thousands of fish migrate along the South African coast for the annual 'sardine run'


The annual sardine run was caught on camera by a Brazilian photographer more than 100 miles off the coast of East London, a city in South Africa

An annual phenomenon in the Indian Ocean sees a diver surrounded by thousands of sardines. The dramatic sardine run was captured on camera, 111 miles from the coast of East London, a city in South Africa.
Locals Steve Benjamin and Jean Tresfon are seen diving with the schools of fish, as well as several dolphins, black tip sharks and even a Bryde's whale.
Steve even managed to grab hold of one sardine to pose for the camera. Brazilian photographer Daniel Botelho who spent six hours underwater, at up to 90ft deep, said: 'The sardine run is the greatest natural spectacle on earth.

A black tip shark ensures it will get a good meal by swimming with the sardines as they travel up the North Coast of South Africa

Schools of dolphins work closely together and create 'bait balls' so they can feed easily and quickly on the sardines during the annual phenomenon

'I had been waiting since I was a child to see this event. I've been in water with Nile crocodiles, white sharks and giant squids - but this was the most exciting thing I've ever experienced.
'The fish move so fast - it was frantic down there.'
The sardine run happens during the winter months of May and July, when billions of sardines lay eggs in the Agulhas Bank in the Cape and migrate north along Kwa-Zulu-Natal on South Africa's east coast.
Some years the fish are so close to shore that within hours of their arrival, word spreads among the locals who also gather along the beaches with buckets to join sharks and other mammals.
Hungry dolphins can also be seen forcing the fish into giant 'bait balls' - while birds attack them on the surface of the water - causing a feeding frenzy. Daniel, 31, said: 'It is a natural battle field - we spent a month trying to get the shots, and all these were taken in one day.

Jean Tresfon is surrounded by thousands of the fish, which are also known as pilchards, as he captures pictures of them on his camera

Photographer Daniel first believed this Bryde's Whale was a dolphin. 'I could see a shadow growing beneath me - at first I thought it was a dolphin. She bumped into me before swimming away. It was incredible'

Three common dolphins are pictured with the sardines in the Indian Ocean. It took six hours to capture all the photographs which were taken up to 90ft deep at times

'It was made even more special when we saw the whale. I could see a shadow growing beneath me - at first I thought it was a dolphin, then like a rocket, the whale appeared.
'She bumped into me before swimming away. It was incredible.'
The fish, which are also known as pilchards, are cold-water fish and they rarely live beyond three years. Each female produces thousands of eggs in her lifespan.
Sardines feed mainly on plankton, tiny plants and animals that they filter from the sea using sieve-like gill rakers.

Nobody misses out on the action and birds also make sure they get their fare share. The sardines often end up close to the shore and word quickly spreads among the locals who stand along the shore with buckets, scooping up the fish

Sardines are cold-water fish and are usually associated with areas of cold ocean upwelling, where deeper, cooler, nutrient-rich water currents surge to the surface when they strike shallow coastal areas

Sardines are commonly found in enormous shoals on the west coasts of California, South America, Japan, Australia and, of course, southern Africa

Steve Benjamin is pictured with thousands of the fish which grow rapidly to reach a length of just under 20 cm and sexual maturity in two years, but rarely live longer than three years

The main spawning grounds are on the Agulhas banks off the southern Cape coast, where the adults gather for a prolonged breeding season through spring and early summer

Steve Benjamin manages to grab hold of one of the fish. The females produces thousands of spawn in their short three-year lifespan

Sardine eggs are simply released into the water, fertilized and left to drift off in the open ocean. A benign ocean current carries most of the developing larvae westwards and northwards into the productive waters along the west coast

Boat skipper Steve Benjamin looks out over the Indian Ocean and watches as gannets dive bomb into the water to catch some of the sardines

After growing into juvenile fish that are strong enough to swim against the current, the sardines aggregate into dense shoals and slowly make their way back to their spawning grounds in the south, thereby completing their life cycle

source: dailymail