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Anchovy, anchovies

Engraulis encrasicolus

Method of production - Caught at sea
Capture method - Pelagic trawl
Capture area - North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area - Bay of Biscay
Stock detail - VIII
Certification -
Fish type - Oily fish

Sustainability rating Click for explaination of rating

This fish, caught by the methods and in the area listed above, is a good sustainable fish to eat. Click on the rating icon above to read more and on the alternatives tab below to find similar fish to eat.

Sustainability overview

The Bay of Biscay anchovy fishery re-opened in July 2010. The closure of the fishery has led to an increase in the abundance of older fish and has increased the biomass above precautionary levels. The stock is now assessed as having full reproductive capacity. However, the actual fishing mortality is not defined. It is a short-lived species, with the fishable stock consisting primarily of one-year-old fish. Anchovy is also a species at or near the base of the food chain and the impact of their large-scale removal on the marine ecosystem is poorly understood.


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 20cm. 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 this 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

Stock area
Bay of Biscay

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Stock information
The spawning-stock biomass for this stock is at full reproductive capacity and fishing pressure below average.


Although there are no specific management objectives known to ICES, a plan for the management of the stock based on a constant harvest rate has been proposed and evaluated as precautionary .

Capture information

The main methods for catching anchovy in this area are by pelagic trawl (12%) and purse seine (88%). The Spanish fleet operates in Divisions VIIIc and VIIIb in spring, while the French fleets operate in VIIIa in summer and autumn and in Divisions VIIIb in winter and summer. Both fleets have reduced in size since 2003 and the closure of the fishery in 2006. Purse seining is the most selective fishing method as species specific shoals can be targeted; pelagic trawls are associated with higher incidences of bycatch. Both methods can be associated with cetacean bycatch.

Read more about capture methods

ICES Advice 2014, Book 7

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