The great migration of life

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The sardine run, the world's largest animal migration
takes place every year in southern Africa.

Armel Ruy / Fondation 1 OCEAN

A mission to meet the world's largest animal migration.

It's a unique, extraordinary, grandiose animal impulse. A palpitation that shivers the sea at the tip of Africa, where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. In this month of June, the promise will be kept, once again. But for how long? Global warming and the rapid development of Africa's second-largest economy are threatening this incredible display of wilderness.

Dolphin Hunting ©Episode Alexis Rosenfeld

The Sardine Run, the great sardine race, brings together the world's largest marine predators for a great feast. Only an aerial image can convey the full extent of the phenomenon: a monstrous black snake several kilometers long,
made up of billions of fish. We set off to find out more about this little-known phenomenon, while highlighting the beauty of the Sardine Run and the threat it poses.

the great migration

The Sardine Run is a migration of sardines and their predators along the eastern coast of the Cape of Good Hope towards the south coast of Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. This is the largest animal migration on the planet in terms of biomass.
It takes place every austral winter, mobilizing up to several billion sardines. Climate-induced ocean currents create a migration corridor into which the fish rush. Every year, sardines gather in huge shoals several kilometers long, darkening the sea. Along their 1500 km journey, the sardines gorge themselves on the seasonal plankton bloom. But a host of predators follow them closely.

South Africa, July 2023. During filming, diver and cameraman Steven Surina finds himself between the dives of Cape in search of sardines. ©Alexis Rosenfeld
exceptional biodiversity

The waters around South Africa are home to an exceptional biodiversity: sardines, of course, but also penguins, fur seals, albatrosses, petrels, cormorants, Cape gannets, leatherback turtles, sharks, dolphins and many species of whale.
This constitutes a spectacular marine biological wealth, both along the coast and offshore, along canyons, seamounts and the continental shelf. This entire ecosystem depends on the countless migrating sardines for food and survival.
Sardine Run is therefore an essential link in the marine balance of South Africa's eastern coastline.

the tree that hides the forest

Another danger has recently emerged: the race for natural gas, exacerbated by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Gas has not yet said its last word, according to oil companies looking to exploit deposits off the coast of South Africa in the coming years.

The team leaves at sunrise to increase the chances of encountering the hunting phenomenon ©Alexis Rosenfeld
improving knowledge and transmission

During this mission, the 1 OCEAN team hopes to contribute to the understanding of the phenomenon by working with specialized scientists, to promote biodiversity and to highlight its importance for local populations. Finally, we want to highlight the threats to the phenomenon to local populations, political decision-makers, NGOs and others.

Produced in partnership with