Sardine, European pilchard, sardines
Capture method — Purse seine
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Cantabrian Sea and Atlantic Iberian waters
Stock detail —
8.c and 9.a
Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
Stock status is unknown as reference points are not defined. The biomass of age one and older fish has decreased since 2006 and is currently around the historical low. ICES assesses that fishing pressure on the stock is above FMSY and too high. Biomass is well below the required sustainable level and advises that when the MSY approach is applied, there should be zero catches in 2019. The purse seine fishery in the Bay of Biscay was certified to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard as an environmentally responsible fishery in 2017. The Southern Brittany purse seine sardine fishery is also MSC certified. The Portugal purse seine fishery has withdrawn from MSC certification.
Pilchard is a pelagic shoaling fish and a member of the herring family. It is widely distributed in European seas, reaching the northward limit of its range in the vicinity of the British Isles, in depths ranging between 10-100m (usually 25-55m by day, rising to 10-35m at night). Schools of juvenile fish tend to be separated from adults and are found closer inshore, typically associated with estuaries and rivers. Pilchards usually mature at a length of around 15 cm. Young pilchard are often referred to as sardine. They spawn in batches in spring and summer in the open sea or near the coast, producing 50-60,000 eggs with a mean diameter of 1.5 mm. After spawning, they migrate northwards to their feeding grounds and are then found inshore in coastal waters. In winter they migrate southwards. Pilchards usually have a length of 20cm, maximum is about 27cm. Maximum reported age is 15 years. Food is mainly planktonic in the spring and autumn; copepods and crustacean in the summer.
Criterion score: Default red rating info
Cantabrian Sea and Atlantic Iberian waters
Young fish (sardines) are heavily fished off Biscay and the Portuguese coast. Due to the absence of defined reference points the state or health of the stock relative to them is unknown.
The biomass of age 1 and older fish has decreased since 2006, has been below Blim since 2009, and has stabilized to a historical low since 2012. Recruitment has been below the long-term average since 2005 and in 2017, it was estimated as the lowest in the time-series. Fishing mortality has been above Flim for most of the time-series but has been decreasing from a peak in 2011. In 2017, it is the lowest in the time-series and around Fpa.
ICES assesses that fishing pressure on the stock is above FMSY, just below Fpa and below Flim. Biomass is well below MSY Btrigger, Bpa, and Blim.
ICES advises that when the MSY approach is applied, there should be zero catches in 2019.
The purse seine fishery in the Bay of Biscay was certified to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard as an environmentally responsible fishery in 2017. The Southern Brittany purse seine sardine fishery is also MSC certified. The Portugal purse seine fishery has withdrawn from MSC certification.
There is no international TAC for this fishery. Almost all catches are taken by Spanish and Portuguese fishermen. 99% of landings are taken by purse seiners. Purse seining is a method that targets whole shoals of fish. The net is deployed in such a way that it encircles the shoal. The lead line is then drawn closed by the purse wire, which draws the base of the net together preventing the fish from escaping. Catches using this method can be so large that the net is too heavy to bring aboard and the fish are scooped out of the main net using hand-nets, or more typically, pumped aboard via flexible pipes or hoses. Purse-seiners have low bycatch of non-target species. Targeting shoaling species with this method is usually very selective in terms of species, but less so in terms of size. The minimum landing size for sardine in EU waters is 11cm, the size at maturity is 15cm. Cetacean interactions are monitored by onboard observers and found to have low impact, however seabird and turtle bycatch is unknown. Pelagic crabs are encountered but released alive. Because purse-seiners operate in open waters, there is little impact on the seabed. The overall impact of the sardine fishery on the pelagic ecosystem of the Atlantic Iberian waters has not been evaluated. The most likely impacts will be changes to predator-prey relationships due to modification of sardine abundance etc.
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
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
Scad, Horse Mackerel
Tuna, Atlantic bluefin (Caught at sea)
ReferencesICES. 2017. Report of the Working Group on Southern Horse Mackerel, Anchovy and Sardine (WGHANSA), 24-29 June 2017, Bilbao, Spain. ICES CM 2017/ACOM:17. 640 pp. Available at: http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Expert%20Group%20Report/acom/2017/WGHANSA/01%20Report%20of%20the%20WG%20on%20Southern%20Horse%20Mackerel,%20Anchovy%20and%20Sardine%20-%20WGHANSA%202017.pdf (Accessed July 2018)
ICES 2018. ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort Bay of Biscay and the Iberian Coast Ecoregion. Published 13 July 2018. Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/pil.27.8c9a.pdf (Accessed July 2018)