Sardine Run by Thomas P. Peschak

Thomas P. Peschak
Thomas P. Peschak
The South African sardine is a pelagic shoaling fish that inhabits the cooler waters of the west and southern coasts.

Former marine biologist Thomas P. Peschak spends more than 300 days a year pursuing marine conservation photography and ocean reportage. A fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers, he has photographed and written four books. Peschak writes for LightBox about his efforts documenting the annual mid-June sardine run in South Africa’s seas.

Thomas P. Peschak

On South Africa’s west/south coast, sardine fishing is of a commercial/industrial nature, but during the sardine run fishermen use only seine nets to harvest the shoals as they come inshore.

Every winter I contract a severe case of sardine fever; the irrepressible urge to pursue and photograph schools of silvery fish for months across some of the roughest seas in the world.

Sardines are shoaling fish that prefer the cold waters off South Africa’s west and south coast, but during June/July (the austral winter) vast shoals follow a tongue of cold-water northwards along the sub-tropical east coast. In hot pursuit of this silvery bounty are a vast army of predators; sharks, dolphins, whales and seabirds in the tens of thousands. Some call this phenomenon the sardine run or ‘the greatest shoal on earth’, I often curse it as the hardest thing I have ever done — the odds are always against the photographer! Sardine movements are unpredictable, an abundance of rivers often reduce visibility to near zero and in the depths of winter 15-foot seas are not unusual.

Sardines unfortunately do not have the same public appeal as panda bears or humpback whales and most people believe tins cans to be their natural habitat. A lack of conservation sympathies resulted in severe overfishing beginning in the 1960s and stocks have collapsed more than once since.

Thomas P. Peschak

Peschak's photo from the Malgas Island, South Africa, was awarded a World Press Photo Award in 2011.

I first began to document the sardine run in 2003 with the aim of revealing what an essential component of South Africa’s oceans these fish really were. The survival of popular flagship conservation species such as common dolphins, Brydes whales, bronze whaler sharks and Cape gannets is intrinsically linked to the health of sardine stocks. Without the vast silvery shoals pulsing along our shores, the many tens of thousands of predators that occupy the top of the marine food chain would soon begin to disappear from South Africa’s seas.

—Produced by Marie Tobias

Related Topics: , , ,

Latest Posts

The Sponge Bob Squarepants float makes its way down 6th Ave during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York

The Best Pictures of the Week: Nov. 21 – Nov. 28

From violent protests over the Ferguson shooting verdict and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s sudden resignation to the dismantling of India’s first aircraft carrier and Lionel Messi’s new goals record, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

Read More
grid

TIME Picks the Best Photobooks of 2014

Al Khumaini Msallam Qudiah is seen exiting his rubbled home in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on Nov. 1st 2014.Al Khumaini and his sons live in the rubbled home, while his wife and daughters live with their relatives. His farmland was bulldozed by Israeli army. He began building new farm, with the bricks and material from his rubbled home.

Photojournalism Daily: Nov. 28, 2014

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 19,452 other followers