Anchovy, anchovies

Engraulis encrasicolus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Purse seine
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Atlantic Iberian Waters
Stock detail — IXa
Picture of Anchovy, anchovies

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

There is insufficient information to evaluate stock status. Due to lack of survey data ICES is unable to give catch advice for 2017. Anchovy is a short-lived species, with the fishable population consisting primarily of one-year-old fish. Anchovy are a species at or near the base of the food chain and the impact of their large-scale removal on the marine ecosystem is poorly understood. Eat with caution.


Anchovy is the only European member of the Engraulidae family. A relative of the herring, it is a small, short-lived fish, generally living less than three years although it can live up to four years. The European anchovy is mainly a coastal marine species, forming large schools. It tolerates salinities of 5-41 ppt and can be found as deep as 400m. Average length at maturity is 13.5 cm, although it can reach 20 cm. Spawning occurs over an extended period from April to November, with peaks usually in the warmest months (June to August in the southern North Sea and the Channel, and April to September in the Mediterranean); the limits of the spawning season are dependent on temperature and thus the season is more restricted in northern areas. It is found in the East Atlantic, and although anchovy can be found as far north as Norway and as far south as South Africa, it is more commonly found in the Mediterranean and off the Atlantic coast of Portugal, Spain and France. It tends to move further north and into surface waters in summer, retreating and descending into deeper waters in winter. It feeds on planktonic organisms, especially calanoid copepods, cirrepede and mollusk larvae, and fish eggs and larvae. Anchovies are prey for other fish and marine mammals.

Stock information

The state of the stock is unknown and no reference points are not defined for biomass and fishing pressure. A qualitative evaluation of the stock suggests biomass is increasing and fishing pressure is below possible reference points. Due to lack of survey data ICES is unable to give catch advice for 2017. This is due to the lack of available data on year classes that constitute the bulk of the biomass and catches.


No specific management measures are known to ICES. The historical fisheries management seems to have been sustainable however the total alloawable catch (TAC) agreed for the stock is routinely higher than that advised by scientists although actual landings are lower than the TAC agreed. As this stock experiences high natural mortality and is highly dependent upon recruitment, an in-season management or alternative management measures could be considered. ICES scientists further recommends the implementation of ‘input’ controls, preferably through technical measures (minimum landing sizes, mesh sizes, seasonal closures etc.) to protect juvenile fish, in conjunction with limiting entry to the offshore fishery in particular and the implementation of a management plan to substantially reduce fishing mortality.

Capture Information

The fishery in this area is characterised by Portuguese and Spanish purse seiners. Contribution from other fleets is almost negligible. Purse seining for pelagic shoaling species is a highly selective although extremely efficient form of fishing with no impact on the seafloor. Although the method is sometimes associated with cetacean bycatch.


Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 2 and below are included as an alternative in the list below. Click on a name to show the sustainable options available.

Anchovy, anchovies
Arctic char
Herring or sild
Horse Mackerel, Scad
Kingfish, yellowtail
Salmon, Atlantic (Farmed)
Salmon, Chum, Keta, Calico or Dog salmon
Salmon, Pink, Spring , humpback
Salmon, Sockeye , Red Salmon, Bluebacks, Redfish
Trout, Rainbow
Tuna, albacore
Tuna, skipjack
Tuna, yellowfin


ICES Advice 2016, Book 7