Sardine, European pilchard, sardines

Sardina pilchardus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Purse seine
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Southern Celtic Seas and English Channel
Stock detail — 7
Picture of Sardine, European pilchard, sardines

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

Updated: December 2019.

This stock is data limited. There is thought to be no concern for biomass and no concern for fishing pressure. No reference points are defined for this stock and stock status is evaluated based on trends in landings only. Although the data for this stock is limited, current levels of exploitation are considered to be sustainable. ICES cannot provide advice on fishing opportunities for 2020 and 2021 for this stock, because of a lack of reliable catch data. Sardines have a medium resilience to fishing pressure. There are no known management measures in place and there is no Total Allowable Catch (TAC). However, there are localised management measures in place. For example, the Cornish Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) has set a vessel size limit of 18.28 m length inside its district (within 6 miles of the Cornish coast). Approximately 15% of this stock is caught by purse seine nets. As sardines are pelagic, there is little impact on the seabed and the level of discarding is unknown, and is probably quite variable.

Biology

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.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0.25 info

Stock Area

Southern Celtic Seas and English Channel

Stock information

This stock is data limited. There is thought to be no concern for biomass and no concern for fishing pressure. Sardines have a medium resilience to fishing pressure. No reference points are defined for this stock and stock status is evaluated based on trends in landings only. Although the data available for the stocks is limited, the data collected during the 2017-2018 fishing season from the commercial fleet, together with the results from the PELTIC acoustic survey, indicate that current levels of exploitation are sustainable in this area. The harvest rate has also been consistently below 20%, the level which is associated with sustainable exploitation. Overall, landings in Subarea 7 have decreased since 2004, especially since 2010 mainly due to a decrease in French landings. ICES cannot provide advice on fishing opportunities for 2020 and 2021 for this stock, because of a lack of reliable catch data.

Management

Criterion score: 0.75 info

There is no management plan or Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for this stock. However, there are localised management measures in place. For example, the Cornish Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority (IFCA) has set a vessel limit of 18.28m length inside its district (within 6 miles of the Cornish coast).


In the European Union (EU), EU fishing vessels can fish up to 12 nautical miles of any Member State coast, and closer by agreement. There is overarching fisheries legislation for all Member States, but implementation varies between fisheries, Member States and sea basins.
The EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is the primary overarching policy. Its key environmental objectives are to restore and maintain harvested species at healthy levels (above BMSY), and apply the precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries management. To achieve the MSY objective, the MSY exploitation rate is supposed to be achieved by 2020, but this seems unlikely to happen.
The CFP also introduced a Landing Obligation (LO) which bans the discarding at sea of species which are subject to catch limits. Some exemptions apply to species with high post-capture survival, and where avoiding unwanted catches is very difficult. These exemptions are outlined in regional discard plans. Despite quota ‘uplift’ being granted to fleets under the LO, available evidence suggests there has been widespread non-compliance with the policy, and illegal and unreported discarding is likely occurring.
Multi-Annual Plans (MAPs) are a tool for implementing the CFP regionally, with one in place or being developed for each sea basin. They specify fishing mortality targets and ranges for the main targeted species, as well as lower biomass reference points. If populations drop below these points it should trigger a management response. The MAPs also empower Member States to jointly apply measures such as closures, gear or capacity limits, and bycatch limits. There is concern however that the MAPs do not provide adequate safeguards to maintain all stocks at healthy levels.
The EU Technical Measures regulation addresses how, where and when fishing can take place in order to limit unwanted catches and ecosystem impacts. There are common measures that apply to all EU sea basins, and regional measures that vary between sea basins. Measures include Minimum Conservation Reference Sizes (MCRS, previously Minimum Landing Sizes, MLS), gear specifications, mesh sizes, closed areas, and bycatch limits.
The Control Regulation, which is being revised in 2019, addresses application of and compliance with the above, e.g. keeping catches within limits, recording and sharing data, and satellite tracking of vessels over 12 metres (VMS).

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.25 info

15% of this stock is captured by purse seines. The remaining stock is caught by pelagic trawl. Purse seining is a method that targets whole shoals of fish. A large part of a typical fishing trip is spent searching for schools with echo sounders and sonar. Once schools of pelagic fish have been detected, large nets (up to 800m long and 150m deep) are set rapidly with the help of a small auxiliary vessel. 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.

Sardine distribution is restricted to coastal shelf waters, mainly at depths above 150m. As sardines are pelagic, there is little impact on the seabed. The level of discarding is unknown, and probably quite variable. Because of the opportunistic nature of some of the fisheries, some of the bycatches of sardine may not be reported. Cetacean interactions are monitored by on board observers and found to have low impact, however seabird and turtle bycatch is unknown. Pelagic crabs are encountered but released alive.

Alternatives

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
Mackerel
Salmon, Atlantic (Farmed)
Salmon, Chum, Keta, Calico or Dog salmon
Salmon, Pink, Spring , humpback
Salmon, Sockeye , Red Salmon, Bluebacks, Redfish
Swordfish
Trout, Rainbow
Tuna, albacore
Tuna, skipjack
Tuna, yellowfin

References

ICES. 2019. Sardine (Sardina pilchardus) in Subarea 7 (southern Celtic Seas and the English Channel). In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2019. ICES Advice 2019, pil.27.7. Available at https://doi.org/10.17895/ices.advice.4854. [Accessed on 20.02.2020].

ICES. 2019. Working Group on Southern Horse Mackerel, Anchovy and Sardine (WGHANSA). ICES Scientific Reports. 1:34. 653 pp. Available at http://doi.org/10.17895/ices.pub.4983 [Accessed on 20.02.2020].

Seafish. 2018. Sardine in the Celtic Sea (ICES Sub Area 7), purse seine. Available at https://www.seafish.org/risk-assessment-for-sourcing-seafood/profile/sardine-in-the-celtic-sea-ices-sub-area-7-purse-seine [Accessed on 20.02.2020].

Froese R. and Pauly D. (Editors), 2015. Sardina pilchardus, European pilchard. Available at https://www.fishbase.se/Summary/SpeciesSummary.php?ID=1350&AT=sardine [Accessed on 19.02.2020].