Taking the bait – Sharks and gannets battle for sardines

By Jamie Smith 

This shoal of sardines was packed close together for protection – before a hungry sharkburst right through the middle.

The giant predators were in competition with dive-bombing birds to hoover up as many of the fish as they could.

Dramatic pictures taken from under the water show the battle between the sharks and gannets, both picking away at the giant schools of sardines desperate to escape.

Pic by Allen D. Walker/Caters News 

The scene was captured by South African photographer Allen Walker off the Wild Shore of South Africa during the annual sardine run.

The run, from May to July, sees billions of sardines in shoals over seven kilometres long spawn in the Agulhas Bank on the southern tip of Africa and move along South Africa’s east coast in cooler waters.

Allen, 47, said: “The annual sardine run is a great time for a photographer. It’s about trying to find the biggest bait ball, one unforgettable moment, and trying to keep your head clear of the diving cape gannets.

Pic by Allen D. Walker/Caters News

“Gannets are among the fastest and most agile of seabirds around, but they risk fatal head and neck injuries by diving into the water at huge speeds.

“They will fly over 50 miles a day sometimes to find shoals of small sardines and anchovies, all the while competing with dolphins, whales, and of course sharks.

“It’s an epic contest to watch and capture. The competition between the animals is fierce.

“It was a privilege to witness the bait ball action up close. It was completely insane and I’ll never forget it.”