Fleet­ing vis­i­tors shim­mer in Aquarium’s un­der­wa­ter bal­let

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - WEEK­END AR­GUS RE­PORTER

THEY are pay­ing only a short visit, so don’t miss the large shoal of sar­dines that have just ar­rived at the Two Oceans Aquarium.

Their shim­mer­ing un­der­wa­ter bal­let is quite breath­tak­ing, says Two Oceans Aquarium sus­tain­abil­ity man­ager He­len Lock­hart.

She de­scribes how the fish form a tight ball to pro­tect them­selves against po­ten­tial preda­tors in the ex­hibit, in­clud­ing yel­lowfin tuna, dusky kob and striped bonito.

“When the larger fish ap­proach the shoal, the sil­very fish move in the op­po­site di­rec­tion in a sin­gle rib­bon-like mo­tion. Should an in­di­vid­ual be­come sep­a­rated from the shoal, it runs the risk of be­com­ing a snack for one of the preda­tors,” she ex­plains.

“We would love to have them on dis­play per­ma­nently as they are so beau­ti­ful to watch.”

The sar­dines will only be in the ex­hibit for the next few weeks.

Lock­hart jokes that the other inhabitants of the I&J Ocean Ex­hibit will also miss the sar­dines once they’re gone, as they pro­vide “such tasty snacks”.

The sar­dines were do­nated to the aquarium by the Santa Mon­ica, a tuna-fish­ing ves­sel that uses live sar­dines as bait. Us­ing seine nets, the crew col­lects shoals of sar­dines and keeps them alive in the ship’s hull. They then pump live pilchards into the sur­round­ing wa­ter to at­tract tuna to the side of the boat.

As soon as there are suf­fi­cient num­bers of tuna close to the boat, the crew switch to spray­ing jets of wa­ter on to the sur­face of the ocean to sus­tain the tuna’s interest. The tuna are then caught on baited hooks on short lines at­tached to bam­boo poles, hence the term “pole-caught tuna”. This fish­ing method, Lock­hart says, is prob­a­bly one of the most eco-friendly and sus­tain­able meth­ods.

PIC­TURES: LEON LESTRADE

The sar­dine spec­ta­cle at the Two Oceans Aquarium has staff and vis­i­tors spell­bound. The sar­dines will be there for the next cou­ple of weeks.

The fish form a tight ball to pro­tect them­selves against po­ten­tial preda­tors, for whom they of­fer a tasty treat.

A tur­tle joins in the un­der­wa­ter bal­let dis­play in the I&J Ocean Ex­hibit. The sar­dines were do­nated by a tuna fish­ing ves­sel which uses live sar­dines as bait.

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