Anchovy, European anchovy
Capture method — Purse seine
Capture area — Central Eastern Atlantic (FAO 34)
Stock area — Northwest Africa
Stock detail — Zone North, A and B
Updated: December 2020
The anchovy stock is fully-exploited in this region. Biomass data is limited, but recent acoustic surveys indicates an increase in biomass after a period of decline. Fishing pressure remains below the target reference point. European anchovy has medium resilience to fishing pressure. They are sensitive to environmental variability and their abundance is highly dependent on annual recruitment levels. Management should be precautionary to account for this sensitivity and any uncertainties. Scientific recommendation is for fishing effort be adjusted to the natural fluctuations of this stock. However, no explicit catch limits are suggested and management does not include Total Allowable Catch. Other measures are in place including various temporal and spatial closures as well as other technical measures. Current management plans are not species-specific and based on geographical limits. Improved collaboration between Morocco, Mauritania and the foreign interested parties is required to assess and manage the stock appropriately. Purse seining is a selective fishing gear, with little to no impact on the seabed. Data on interactions with protected species is limited but protective measures are in place for sharks, and bycatch limits are defined for allowable species.
A Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) is in progress for the Moroccan Anchovy Purse Seine Fishery. The FIP is focusing on the development of a Harvest Control Rule; improvements to data quality and quantity; evaluating the impact of the small pelagic fishery on the ecosystem; and compliance with management regulations.
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.
Criterion score: 0.25 info
The anchovy stock is fully-exploited in this region. Although biomass data is limited, recent acoustic surveys indicate biomass has increased after a period of decline. Fishing pressure is below the target reference point. European anchovy has medium resilience to fishing pressure.
Of the main small pelagic species in the Northwest African region, anchovy represents around 1% (2018) of catches within the mixed fishery. Total catch of the main small pelagic fish in the region saw a decrease in catches from 2.7 million tonnes in 2017 to 2.6 million tonnes in 2018.
The most recent assessment (2018) of anchovy was based on information from Zone North and Zone A+B. Acoustic biomass has increased compared to the previous five years 2014-2017, when biomass declined. Although anchovy catches increased 20% in this area (North + A + B) in 2018, fishing mortality (F) remained below F0.1 (F target reference point). The ratio of F/F0.1 was 69%, an improvement compared to those of the previous years. These changes did not affect the diagnosis of the stock status. The FAO Working Group on the Assessment of Small Pelagic Fish off Northwest Africa retains its definition of the stock as fully exploited.
Anchovy catches increased in 2018, to 24,000 tonnes (average 24,000 tonnes: 2014-18), compared to 20,000 tonnes in 2017. Morocco catches increased 18% from 18,603 tonnes in 2017 to 22,581 tonnes in 2018. A significant increase compared to 2017 was recorded in Zone B by the Moroccan fleet. In general, total catch increased especially in Zones (A+B) from 9,419 tonnes in 2017 to 19,962 tonnes in 2018, i.e. >100%. The catches in Mauritania are almost stable in 2018 compared to 2017.
The short life of anchovies (max. three years) makes the abundance of this species highly dependent on fluctuations in its recruitment, in addition to environmental factors.
Given that the availability of anchovy is highly dependent on environmental factors, it is opportunistically fished, and catches vary widely from year to year, the Working Group recommends that the fishing effort be adjusted to the natural fluctuations of this stock.
Anchovy in North + A + B is classified as a single stock. There may be two separate stocks in the sub region (N+A+B and C), but further information is required to decide on the existence of two separate stocks.
Criterion score: 0.5 info
Some management is in place. This includes various temporal and spatial closures established by Decree, as well as other technical measures. However, management plans are not species-specific and based on geographical limits. Improved collaboration between Morocco, Mauritania and the foreign interested parties is required to assess and manage the stock appropriately.
Scientific recommendation on explicit catch limits is absent and management does not implement Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the anchovy stock. No harvest control rule is in place for this stock.
A management plan was established in 2015 for the small pelagic fishery operating in northern and central zones (A+B). However, as a multispecies plan with no harvest control rule (HCR) in place, it is not responsive to the state of individual stocks. Effort regulation measures include seasonal and area closures for each of the zones, other technical measures, as well as allowed bycatch species and limits according to vessels’ categories. Since 2013, Morocco has established a spatio-temporal closure of fishing for small pelagics in Zone B to preserve this resource.
The EU-Morocco fisheries agreement ended in July 2018. This resulted in a significant reduction in fishing effort in 2018 compared to 2017, in the northern zone of Morocco.
In Mauritania, there is a partial TAC for small pelagic species (applied to EU-vessels) and a number of management measures are in place. EU fleets operating within Mauritanian EEZ have consistently complied with the TAC in recent years. However, the EU catch component is a small fraction of the overall small pelagic catch in Mauritania. Limits and compliance pertaining to the rest of the fleet fishing in Mauritania are unclear. Technical management measures include minimum mesh sizes for nets (40 mm for purse-seining), minimum landings sizes (16cm) and weights, restrictions on non-target species (3% industrial fleet), limited access to some areas and restriction or ban of certain fishing gears.
Monitoring, control and surveillance systems has undergone improvements in the last decade.
Discarding is not identified or quantified.
A Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) for the Moroccan Anchovy Purse Seine Fishery (stage 2) launched in May 2019. The FIPs objectives include the development of a Harvest Control Rule; Improvements to data quality and quantity; evaluation of the overlap between the anchovy and sardine fishery; evaluation of the impact of the small pelagic fishery on the ecosystem; ensure artisanal fishers are compliant with management regulations. The FIP is due to complete in March 2023.
Criterion score: 0.25 info
Anchovy is one of the targeted small pelagic species in Northwest Africa, and fished by purse seiners operating in Morocco and Mauritania. Purse seining is generally considered to have very low potential effects on the habitat and on protected species. Data on interactions with protected species is limited in Morocco and Mauritania. Nonetheless, protective measures are in place for sharks and bycatch limits are defined for allowable species.
Fishing areas, considered artisanal and industrial are defined in each of the countries. In Morocco, artisanal and purse seiners (gross tonnage 2-150 tonnes) are restricted to beyond 2 nautical miles (nm) offshore. In Mauritania, industrial fleets are restricted to beyond 15 nm; no restrictions are in place for artisanal fishers. Fishing gears are not expected to interact with the seabed ecosystem.
There are a number of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) which have been established along the Northwest African coast. These do not directly contribute to the stock but indirectly to the protection of the ecosystems. Morocco has three MPAs in the central area but limits on fishing is unclear. There are four MPAs in Mauritania. Industrial vessels and outboard engines are not permitted in the Banc d’Aguin Park and access is limited to travel and tourism. It is not clear if fishing regulations apply in the other MPAs.
A non-target species (bycatch) threshold of 3% of the total catch is set for the Moroccan and Mauritanian small pelagic fisheries.
Interactions of the Moroccan and Mauritanian small pelagic fisheries with protected species is poorly documented and further investigation is needed. Sharks are commonly reported bycatch species in fisheries off Northwest Africa, and sea turtles including green and loggerhead turtles, manta rays, sun fish and dolphins. However, interactions in the purse seine sector is likely to be low and the Moroccan FIP considers the Moroccan Sardine Purse Seine Fishery not to pose a threat to endangered species.
Moreover, the 2012-2017 ban on the capture of sharks including: hammerhead - Sphyrna spp. (except bonnethead - S. tiburo); oceanic whitetip - Carcharhinus longimanus (Vulnerable: IUCN Red list); and bigeye thresher - Alopias superciliosus (Vulnerable: IUCN Red list) has been renewed through to 2022 in Moroccan waters; in accordance with commitments and recommendations made by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM).
Anchovy is a species at or near the base of the food chain and the impact of their large-scale removal on the marine ecosystem requires further investigation. Small pelagic species in this fishery are highly dependent on oceanographic conditions in Northwest Africa.
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, European anchovy
Anchovy, Peruvian anchovy
Herring or sild
Horse Mackerel, Scad
Salmon, Chum, Keta, Calico or Dog salmon
Salmon, Pink, Spring , humpback
Salmon, Sockeye , Red Salmon, Bluebacks, Redfish
Sardine, European pilchard, sardines
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