Anchovy, anchovies

Engraulis encrasicolus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Pelagic trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Bay of Biscay
Stock detail — VIII
Picture of Anchovy, anchovies

Sustainability rating two info

Sustainability overview

The Bay of Biscay anchovy fishery re-opened in July 2010. The closure of the fishery has led to an increase in the abundance of older fish and has increased the biomass above precautionary levels. The stock is now assessed as having full reproductive capacity. However a reference point against which to assess fishing pressure is not defined. It is a short-lived species, with the fishable stock consisting primarily of one-year-old fish. Anchovy is also 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.


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

Stock Area

Bay of Biscay

Stock information

The spawning-stock biomass has been above Blim (lowest observed level) since 2010 and stock biomass and recruitment in 2016 are among the highest in the historical time-series. Fishing pressure is below average. ICES advises that when the management plan is applied, catches in 2016 should be no more than 25 000 tonnes. All catches are assumed to be landed.


Although there are no specific management objectives known to ICES, a plan for the management of the stock based on a constant harvest rate has been proposed and evaluated as precautionary .

Capture Information

The main methods for catching anchovy in this area are by pelagic trawl (16%) and purse seine (84%). The Spanish fleet operates in Divisions VIIIc and VIIIb in spring, while the French fleets operate in VIIIa in summer and autumn and in Divisions VIIIb in winter and summer. Both fleets have reduced in size since 2003 and the closure of the fishery in 2006. Purse seining is the most selective fishing method as species specific shoals can be targeted; pelagic trawls are associated with higher incidences of bycatch. Both methods can be 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
Salmon, Atlantic (Farmed)
Salmon, Chinook, King Salmon
Salmon, Chum, Keta, Calico or Dog salmon
Salmon, Coho , Silver, White
Salmon, Pink, Spring , humpback
Salmon, Sockeye , Red Salmon, Bluebacks, Redfish
Trout, Rainbow
Tuna, albacore
Tuna, bigeye
Tuna, skipjack
Tuna, yellowfin


ICES Advice 2015, Book 7