Sprat, whitebait

Sprattus sprattus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Pelagic trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — West of Scotland, Southern Celtic Seas
Stock detail — VI and VIIa-c and f-k
Picture of Sprat, whitebait

Sustainability rating four info

Sustainability overview

There is no assessment of sprat in the area. Stock status 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: 0.5 info

Stock Area

West of Scotland, Southern Celtic Seas

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 for the species in these areas except for in the North and Baltic Seas.
The information available for sprat populations in the West of Scotland, Southern Celtic Seas area is insufficient to evaluate stock trends and exploitation. Stock identity for this species in this area is not defined.
ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, catches should be no more than 2800 tonnes in each of the years 2018 and 2019 (3500 tonnes in each of 2016 and 2017).


Criterion score: 0.75 info

There is no management plan for sprat in this area. Currently there is no TAC for this species, and it is not clear whether there should be one or several management units.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.25 info

100% 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.27.67a%E2%80%93cf%E2%80%93k.pdf