Nature: The Ocean’s Greatest Feast

Air date: 02/16/2022

Nature: The Ocean’s Greatest Feast

Premieres Wednesday, February 16 at 8 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings), and the PBS Video app

The sardine run along the East coast of South Africa is one of nature’s greatest spectacles, a challenging voyage for these fish as they navigate the ocean, barely escaping the mouths of hungry predators who depend on this event for food. Between May and July, billions of these tiny fish gather to create a shoal that is many miles long. As the largest biomass migration on the planet, researchers estimate the sardine run could rival Africa’s wildebeest migration. Prompted by an influx of cold water, billions of sardines start a journey that becomes a “moveable feast” for predators like sharks, dolphins, gannets, seals and whales. Specialty underwater filming techniques, such as multidirectional floating cameras and mounted cameras on boats, capture this event in stunning, closeup detail.

Featured Creatures:

  • Sardines
  • Cape gannets
  • Great white sharks
  • Blacktip sharks
  • Dusky sharks
  • Tuna
  • Bottlenose dolphins
  • Bryde’s whale
  • Orcas (Killer whales)
  • Cape fur seals

Short TV Listing: The story of South Africa’s sardine run is brought vividly to life on camera. 

Long TV Listing: The story of South Africa’s sardine migration is brought vividly to life on camera. Each summer, the sardine run sees billions of sardines traveling up the coast, providing a feast for an array of marine predators.

Buzzworthy Moments:

  • The arriving school of sardines breaks up a moment of tension among a colony of hungry seals. Hundreds of seals immediately dive into the water and quickly propel themselves into the massive school, swallowing sardines whole.
  • Cape gannets are impressive high-speed dive bombers that demonstrate incredible agility underwater as they fly through the ocean with their wings. When the sardines are pushed to the surface, the birds dive-bomb with expert precision at up to 60 mph, snatching the little fish and bobbing back up to the surface. A colony of gannets eats up to 9,000 tons of fish in one breeding season.
  • Sharks creep up next to the sardine run to try and plan an attack, but the sardines detect the movement in the waves. One sardine swiftly moves away and the rest follow, creating a bait ball and making the shark unable to catch a bite. Tuna come along to separate the sardines into smaller sections and move them towards the surface where they share the feast with the sharks and seagulls. 

Noteworthy Facts:

  • The sardine run is the largest biomass migration on the planet, rivaling the great herds of the Serengeti.
  • Common dolphins are the keystone heroes of the sardine run, acting as orchestrators of feeding events for sardine predators, such as sharks, gannets and whales.
  • Orcas swim thousands of miles to intercept the sardine run and hunt dolphins, allowing sardines to swim away from their initial predators.

Series Overview:
For 40 years, Nature has pioneered a television genre that is now widely emulated in the broadcast industry, bringing the natural world to millions of viewers. The series has won more than 700 honors from the television industry, the international wildlife film communities and environmental organizations, including 20 Emmys and three Peabodys. Consistently among the most-watched primetime series on PBS, Nature continues to innovate through original digital programming, such as the new podcast Going Wild with Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant and digital series Animal IQ and Crash Course: ZoologyNature’s award-winning website,, features full episodes, short films, digital series, behind-the-scenes content, news articles, educational resources and more.

Nature is available for streaming concurrent with broadcast on all station-branded PBS platforms, including and the PBS Video App, available on iOS, Android, Roku streaming devices, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and VIZIO. PBS station members can view many series, documentaries and specials via PBS Passport. For more information about PBS Passport, visit the PBS Passport FAQ website.

Production Credits:
Nature is a production of The WNET Group. Fred Kaufman is Executive Producer. Bill Murphy is Series Producer and Janet Hess is Series Editor. Nature: The Ocean’s Greatest Feast is a production of Earth Touch, The WNET Group and Bonne Pioche Television in association with Love Nature, SVT, France Télévisions and NHK. The documentary is written and produced by Mea Trenor. Narrated by Nora Young. Graeme Duane and Chris Fletcher are Executive Producers for Earth Touch.

Support for Nature: The Ocean’s Greatest Feast was provided by The Hite Foundation. Series funding for Nature is also made possible by The Arnhold Family in memory of Henry and Clarisse Arnhold, The Fairweather Foundation, Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Kathy Chiao and Ken Hao, Charles Rosenblum, Filomen M. D’Agostino Foundation, Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, Leonard and Norma Klorfine, Sandra Atlas Bass, Colin S. Edwards, Gregg Peters Monsees Foundation, Koo and Patricia Yuen, by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by public television viewers.

Websites:;, #NaturePBS 

About The WNET Group
The WNET Group creates inspiring media content and meaningful experiences for diverse audiences nationwide. It is the community-supported home of New York’s THIRTEEN – America’s flagship PBS station – WLIW21, THIRTEEN PBSKids, WLIW World and Create; NJ PBS, New Jersey’s statewide public television network; Long Island’s only NPR station WLIW-FM; ALL ARTS, the arts and culture media provider; and newsroom NJ Spotlight News. Through these channels and streaming platforms, The WNET Group brings arts, culture, education, news, documentary, entertainment and DIY programming to more than five million viewers each month. The WNET Group’s award-winning productions include signature PBS series Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend and Amanpour and Company and trusted local news programs MetroFocus and NJ Spotlight News with Briana Vannozzi. Inspiring curiosity and nurturing dreams, The WNET Group’s award-winning Kids’ Media and Education team produces the PBS KIDS series Cyberchase, interactive Mission US history games, and resources for families, teachers and caregivers. A leading nonprofit public media producer for nearly 60 years, The WNET Group presents and distributes content that fosters lifelong learning, including multiplatform initiatives addressing poverty, jobs, economic opportunity, social justice, understanding and the environment. Through Passport, station members can stream new and archival programming anytime, anywhere. The WNET Group represents the best in public media. Join us.



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A cape gannet (Morus capensis) fledgling towers above its parent. From 8 weeks old the chicks outweigh the adults and this remains so until the fledglings start flying at around 14 weeks old. Malgas Island, Cape Peninsula, South Africa. Credit: © Earth Touch

A cape gannet (Morus capensis) rests on a nest built from guano, bones and feathers. Malgas Island, Cape Peninsula, South Africa. Credit: © Earth Touch

A young cape fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus) warms up in the sun after a cold swim. Cape Peninsula, South Africa. Credit: © Earth Touch

Close-up of a sardine's face as it tries to escape the predators of the sardine run. Wild Coast, South Africa. Credit: © Earth Touch

The arrival of the common dolphin army - the main predators of the sardine run. Wild Coast, South Africa. Credit: © Earth Touch

A shoal of sardines moving up the coast on their annual breeding run that feeds thousands of predators. Wild Coast, South Africa. Credit: © Earth Touch

Common dolphins corralling fish from the main shoal into smaller baitballs for easier feeding. Wild Coast, South Africa. Credit: © Earth Touch

A small baitball of sardines that have been driven to the surface. Wild Coast, South Africa. Credit: © Earth Touch

Species of tuna attacking a small baitball of sardines from below. Wild Coast, South Africa. Credit: © Earth Touch