Anchovy, anchovies

Engraulis encrasicolus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Purse seine
Capture area — Central Eastern Atlantic (FAO 34)
Stock area — Northwest Africa
Stock detail — Morocco and Mauritiania
Picture of Anchovy, anchovies

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

Anchovies are fully-exploited. Anchovy have low vulnerability, caught in highly productive seas though they are sensitive to environmental variability, therefore, management should be precautionary to account for this sensitivity and any uncertainties, and catch limits should not increase. Purse seines can catch bycatch such as dolphins and sharks so more management is required to reduce this risk.


Anchovy is the only European member of the Engraulidae family and is a relative to herring. It is a small, short-lived fish and has been found to live up to five years old. It is mainly a coastal marine species found in large schools. It tolerates a wide spectrum of salinity levels with a depth range down to 400m. It matures on average at 13.5 cm, spawning between April to November, peaking in the warmest months (June to August in the southern North Sea and the Channel, and April to September in the Mediterranean). The European anchovy is found between Norway to South Africa, though it is normally found in the Mediterranean and off the Atlantic coast of Portugal, Spain and France. It is found further north and surface waters in summer, and in deeper waters in winter. It feeds on planktonic organisms (calanoid copepods, cirrepede and mollusk larvae, fish eggs and larvae). Anchovies are prey for other fish and marine mammals.

Stock information

The anchovy stock is fully-exploited. Due to the species’ short lifespan, their abundance depends greatly on recruitment which poses a threat to the species when their stock is at a fully-exploited level. The majority of catch in the region is caught in Mauritania by Russian, Ukrainian and other European fleets. The most recent catch data available for the fishery is from 2012. Catch levels have fluctuated through recent surveys (2006-2010) averaging 130,000t. TACs are required for anchovy caught in CECAF waters by EU vessels and the management body recommends that these catches should not be increased. Anchovy are caught in large quantities as bycatch by Moroccan sardine boats and in the Mauritanian industrial small pelagics fishery. The target fisheries in the region are sardine, horse mackerel or mackerel.


Anchovy caught by Spanish purse seiners (called traina” in Moroccan seas) and mid-water are managed under a 2007 EU-Morocco agreement to promote sustainable exploitation. A partnership between EU and Mauritania began on 10 July 2015 lasting until 15th November 2019. European Community vessels must be a fee per vessel to improve fisheries policy. Anchovy are most important in the Moroccan commercial fishery out of the East Central Atlantic fisheries. The Fisheries Science Partnership (which manages the small pelagics sardine purse seine fishery in Morocco) has recently been implementing monitoring and enforcement duties in the fishery with some Moroccan fleets conducting observer studies. Though the fishery is lacking in harvest control rules. Monitoring is completed by fishery-dependent data (catch rates) and fishery-independent acoustic studies - though these are limited and host uncertainty which reduces the accuracy in the stock status and management. There are also a large lack of data from foreign and EU fleets. Management measures include vessel limits gear restrictions (seine net dinsensions of 500 m x 90 m) banning of fishing with “lampara” nets vessel size restrictions (< 100 GT); Spatial measures include closed areas (out of the area North of 34degrees 18 minutes and beyond 2 miles); Temporal measures: closed season (two months in February and March) and aquatic species-related measures where cephalopods and crustaceans must not be caught apart from a 5% crab allowance for the Spanish fleets in Morocco. When anchovy are caught bait using purse-seine gear in Mauritania the nets must be 20mm since August 2007 and the bait can only then be used in line and creel fishing.

Capture Information

Purse seine presents minimal impact to habitats, however, there is some capture non-target species including juvenile pelagic species, marine mammals and sharks. The fishing gear can be selective when targeting shoals and the Moroccan FIP considers the Moroccan sardine purse seine fishery to not pose a threat to endangered species.


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


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