Sprat, whitebait

Sprattus sprattus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Pelagic trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Skagerrak and Kattegat
Stock detail — IIIa
Picture of Sprat, whitebait

Sustainability rating four info

Sustainability overview

There is no formal stock assessment of the species in this area. Reference points for this stock are not defined. Stock biomass is reported to be decreasing. Fishing pressure is unknown. Sprat is short-lived and an important prey fish for many marine species. The effects of the sprat fishery on these species is unknown. Sprat is usually caught with bycatches of juvenile herring.


Sprat is a relatively short-lived species. It is one of the most important prey species in marine ecosystems, for both fish, seabirds and marine mammals. It is a pelagic inshore schooling species that can tolerate low salinities. Sprat migrates between winter feeding and summer spawning grounds. Moves to the surface at night. High resilience to fishing pressure. Maximum size 16 cm. Sprat are multiple batch spawners, with females spawning repeatedly throughout the spawning season (up to 10 times in some areas). Spawning occurs in both coastal and offshore waters, during spring and late summer, with peak spawning between May and June, depending on water temperature. Spawning generally takes place at night. Sprat generally first spawn at 2 years of age, though a small proportion of the population spawn at 1 year of age.

Stock information

Criterion score: 1 info

Stock Area

Skagerrak and Kattegat

Stock information

Distinct sprat stocks exist in the North, Baltic and Celtic Seas, West of Scotland, English Channel and the Skagerrak and Kattegat areas. There is no formal stock assessment of the species in these areas except for in the North and Baltic Seas. Reference points for this stock are not defined. The index of the stock size is derived from the combination of three survey indices. The advice for the stock is based on a combined abundance index from these three surveys which is used as an indicator of stock size. The abundance index has been fluctuating without trend over the time-series with high interannual variability. The stock abundance index in 2017 is 27% lower than the average of the four preceding years. Stock is decreasing. Fishing pressure is unknown. ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, catches from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018 should be no more than 6 255 tonnes (9773 t July 2016 to June 2017; 8144 t July 2015 to June 2016).


Criterion score: 0.5 info

There is no management plan for sprat in this area. Management is through a Total Allowable Catch (TAC).

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.25 info

The majority (96%) of landings are made by pelagic trawlers. Discards are negligible.


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
Sprat, whitebait
Trout, Rainbow
Tuna, albacore
Tuna, bigeye
Tuna, skipjack
Tuna, yellowfin


ICES Advice 2017 http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2017/2017/spr.27.3a.pdf