Anchovy, anchovies

Engraulis encrasicolus

Method of production — Caught at Sea
Capture method — Purse seine
Capture area — Mediterranean and Black Sea (FAO 37)
Stock area — Turkey
Stock detail — All Areas
Picture of Anchovy, anchovies

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

The stock status for anchovy in the Black Sea is unknown and fishing mortality is too high. Turkey’s anchovy catch has fallen sharply since 1989 due to several factors including overfishing and heavy predation by Mnemiopsis leidyi on anchovy fish eggs and larvae.


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

Anchovy is the single largest resource in the Black Sea. Two anchovy subspecies exist: the Azov anchovy, Engraulis encrasicolus maeoticus Pusanov and the Black Sea anchovy, Engraulis encrasicolus ponticus Alexandrov. The Black Sea anchovy is more abundant and important for the commercial fishery. It’s biomass increased in the late 1970s and early 1980s at a time when catches were also increasing, reaching more than half a million tonnes in 1984 and 1988. Black Sea anchovy is a short-lived pelagic species and catches are predominately age-0 to age-3 fish. Of the six Black Sea countries, five are involved in the Black Sea anchovy fishery. The Russian Federation fleet exclusively targets Azov anchovy, which is assumed to form an isolated stock and only negligible quantities of the Black Sea anchovy exist in Russian waters. Turkey’s anchovy catch has fallen sharply since 1989 due to several factors including overfishing and heavy predation by Mnemiopsis leidyi on anchovy fish eggs and larvae. The arrival of Mnemiopsis leidyi is due to its accidental introduction to the Black Sea in ballast tanks of ships. Effort subsequently decreased, allowing the species to recover somewhat but anchovy biomass and catches have not reached the previous values. The anchovy shoals are subject to intensive commercial fishing along the Turkish and Georgian coasts during the winter period and are the main species caught by the Turkish Black Sea fishing fleet followed by sprats, sardines and horse mackerel, though the total catch for each species has varied considerably in recent years. According to the General Directorate of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Turkey’s total Black Sea marine fishery catch was 401,000 tons in 2011, down 17% from 484,000 tons in 2007, due to the decline in the anchovy catch. In 2011 the Turkish Black Sea fleet caught 228,000 tons of anchovies, almost unchanged from the previous year; but down 15% from the 270,000 tons landed in 2007. Fishing mortality in 2013 is estimated to be F = 1.2, which is almost twice FMSY (FMSY = 0.56). The stock has been exploited at rates exceeding FMSY for many years. The general trend over the last ten years, however, indicates a slight decrease in the fishing mortality. The stock status is unknown.


There are no EEZs in the Mediterranean, but only jurisdictional waters, limited by 12 nautical miles, in the majority of countries, and some fishery protection areas, therefore, most of the Mediterranean surface corresponds to international waters, or high seas. On the contrary, in the the Black Sea, EEZs have been established, limited by equidistant lines, as there is not enough space for 200 miles, therefore there are no international waters in the Black Sea.The General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) is a Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO) with 23 Member countries along with the European Union which has the authority to adopt binding recommendations for fisheries conservation and management in the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and connecting waters. In the Black Sea countries, anchovy fisheries are generally regulated by: closed seasons (April/May to October/November for Bulgaria and Romania, fishing is banned from 15 April to 31 August in Turkey, and no closed season for Ukraine); closed areas; mesh size regulations and; minimum landing size (9 cm total length in general and 7 cm TL for Georgia). More recent legislation consists of technical measures for the sustainable exploitation of red coral as well as for the mitigation of incidental catches of certain marine species such as sea turtles and cetaceans; it also contains a coherent framework for the recording of relevant data by fishermen and for reporting to the GFCM. The Black Sea and Azov anchovy are treated as two different stocks in Ukraine and in the Russian Federation and the fishery is managed separately for each stock. There has been a marked decrease in the fishing effort by the Turkish fishing fleet in the last decade. This is the consequence of the effort regulation measures recently enforced by Turkey, namely: restricting anchovy fishing to night hours only (16:00 to 08:00) since 2007; setting a depth limit (0-24 m) for purse seining and; a vessel buy-back program launched in 2012 and repeated in 2013, in which more than 900 industrial class fishing vessel were removed from the fleet. The only country applying a catch quota to Black Sea anchovy is Georgia, where the quota increased from 60 000 to 80 000 tones in 2013. As no information is provided by the Georgian authorities concerning the methodology applied to estimate their TAC, it is not clear whether the increased quota is in line with the stock status.

Capture Information

The anchovy fleet is characterized by purse seiners usually coupled with a carrier boat. In some years when the sprat fishery is not profitable or anchovy schools are dispersed over wide areas, paired pelagic trawlers also take part in the anchovy fishery. Other gears, such as gillnet, coastal trap or pound nets, make negligible contributions to the total landings. The largest fleet targeting Black Sea anchovy belongs to Turkey. Most of the reported landings (95%) of anchovy since 2004 have been taken by Turkey. In accordance with a bilateral agreement, since 2003, a small part of the Turkish purse seiners move to Georgian waters as soon as the Black Sea anchovy season is over on the Turkish coast. These boats are licensed to catch anchovy within the jurisdictional waters of Georgia and their catch is landed and registered at the Georgian ports. Although only 10% of the fishing boats moved to Georgia in 2013 and took part in anchovy fishery the quantity of the fish landed in Georgia is almost half the Turkish anchovy landed in Turkey. Apparently the catch rates are much higher in Georgian waters. This is most probably a consequence of the different minimum size regulations applied between the countries, the MLS in Georgia is 7 cms, compared to 9 cms in Turkey.


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