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Title: Sardine  
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Sardines are small epipelagic fish that sometimes migrate along the coast in large schools. They are an important forage fish for larger forms of marine life.
Global commercial capture of sardines in tonnes
reported by the FAO 1950–2009[1]

Sardines, or pilchards, are common names used to refer to various small, oily fish within the herring family of Clupeidae.[2] The term sardine was first used in English during the early 15th century and may come from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, around which sardines were once abundant.[3][4]

The terms sardine and pilchard are not precise, and what is meant depends on the region. The United Kingdom's Sea Fish Industry Authority, for example, classifies sardines as young pilchards.[5] One criterion suggests fish shorter in length than 15 cm (6 in) are sardines, and larger ones pilchards.[6] The FAO/WHO Codex standard for canned sardines cites 21 species that may be classed as sardines;[7] FishBase, a comprehensive database of information about fish, calls at least six species "pilchard", over a dozen just "sardine", and many more with the two basic names qualified by various adjectives.


  • Genera 1
  • Species 2
  • Fisheries 3
  • As food 4
  • History 5
  • Popular culture 6
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


Sardines occur in several genera


This article is
one of a series on
Commercial fish
Large pelagic
billfish, bonito
mackerel, salmon
shark, tuna

anchovy, herring
menhaden, sardine
shad, sprat

cod, eel, flatfish
pollock, ray
carp, tilapia
Commercially significant species
Genus Common name Scientific name Max.
Sardina European pilchard* Sardina pilchardus (Walbaum, 1792) 27.5 cm 20.0 cm kg 15 years 3.05 [8] [9] [10]
Sardinops South American pilchard Sardinops sagax (Jenyns, 1842) 39.5 cm 20.0 cm 0.49 kg 25 years 2.43 [11] [12] [13]
Japanese pilchard Sardinops melanostictus (Schlegel, 1846) [14] [15] [16]
Californian pilchard Sardinops caeruleus (Girard, 1854) [17] [18] [19]
southern African pilchard Sardinops ocellatus (Pappe, 1854) [20] [21] [22]
Sardinella Bali sardinella Sardinella lemuru (Bleeker, 1853) 23 cm 20 cm kg years [23] [24] [25]
Brazilian sardinella Sardinella brasiliensis (Steindachner, 1879) cm cm kg years 3.10 [26] [27] [28]
Japanese sardinella Sardinella zunasi (Bleeker, 1854) cm cm kg years 3.12 [29] [30] [31]
Indian oil sardine Sardinella longiceps (Valenciennes, 1847) cm cm kg years 2.41 [32] [33] [34]
Goldstripe sardinella Sardinella gibbosa (Bleeker, 1849) cm cm kg years 2.85 [36] [37] [38]
Round sardinella Sardinella aurita (Valenciennes, 1847) cm cm kg years 3.40 [39] [40] [41]
Madeiran sardinella Sardinella maderensis (Lowe, 1839) cm cm kg years 3.20 [42] [43] [44]
Dussumieria Rainbow sardine Dussumieria acuta (Valenciennes, 1847) cm 20 cm kg years 3.40 [45] [46] [47]
The European pilchard, Sardina pilchardus
In the 1980s the South American pilchard, Sardinops sagax, was the most intensively fished species of sardine. Some major stocks declined precipitously in the 1990s (see chart below).

There are four distinct stocks in the genus Sardinops, widely separated by geography. The FAO treats these stocks as separate species, while FishBase treats them as one species, Sardinops sagax.[48]


Global capture of sardines in tonnes reported by the FAO
↑  Sardines of the Sardinops genus, 1950–2010[1]
↑  Sardines not of the Sardinops genus, 1950–2010[1]

Typically, sardines are caught with encircling nets, particularly purse seines. Many modifications of encircling nets are used, including traps or weirs. The latter are stationary enclosures composed of stakes into which schools of sardines are diverted as they swim along the coast. The fish are caught mainly at night, when they approach the surface to feed on plankton. After harvesting, the fish are submerged in brine while they are transported to shore.

Sardines are commercially fished for a variety of uses: for bait; for immediate consumption; for drying, salting, or smoking; and for reduction into fish meal or oil. The chief use of sardines is for human consumption, but fish meal is used as animal feed, while sardine oil has many uses, including the manufacture of paint, varnish and linoleum.

French sardine seiner

As food

Exhibit of a woman canning sardines at the Maine State Museum in Augusta; sardines are a component of the economy of Maine.

Sardines are commonly consumed by human beings. Fresh sardines are often grilled, pickled or smoked, or preserved in cans.

Sardines are rich in vitamins and minerals. A small serving of sardines once a day can provide 13 percent of vitamin B2; roughly one-quarter of niacin; and about 150 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin B12. All B vitamins help to support proper nervous system function and are used for energy metabolism, or converting food into energy.[49] Also, sardines are high in the major minerals such as phosphorus, calcium, potassium, and some trace minerals including iron and selenium. Sardines are also a natural source of marine omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce the occurrence of cardiovascular disease.[50] Recent studies suggest that regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids reduces the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease.[51] These fatty acids can also lower blood sugar levels.[52] They are also a good source of vitamin D,[53] calcium, vitamin B12,[54][55] and protein.

Because they are low in the food chain, sardines are very low in contaminants such as mercury, relative to other fish commonly eaten by humans.[56]


Sardines use body-caudal fin locomotion to swim, and streamline their body by holding their other fins flat against the body.

Pilchard fishing and processing became a thriving industry in Cornwall (UK) from around 1750 to around 1880, after which it went into decline. As of 2007, however, stocks are improving.[57] Since 1997, sardines from Cornwall have been sold as "Cornish sardines", and since March 2010, under EU law, Cornish sardines have Protected Geographical Status.[58] The industry has featured in numerous works of art, particularly by Stanhope Forbes and other Newlyn School artists.

In the United States, the sardine canning industry peaked in the 1950s. Since then, the industry has been on the decline. The canneries in Monterey Bay, in what was known as Cannery Row, failed in the mid-1950s. The last large sardine cannery in the United States, the Stinson Seafood plant in Prospect Harbor, Maine, closed its doors on 15 April 2010 after 135 years in operation.[59]

The traditional "Toast to Pilchards" refers to the lucrative export of the fish to Catholic Europe:

Here's health to the Pope, may he live to repent
 And add just six months to the term of his Lent
 And tell all his vassals from Rome to the Poles,
 There's nothing like pilchards for saving their souls![60]

Popular culture

The close packing of sardines in the can has led to their metaphorical use of the name in describing any situation where people or objects are crowded together, for instance, in a bus or subway car. This phenomenon is satirised by British poet and comic Spike Milligan in his poem 'Sardine Submarine'. In the poem, a sardine's mother describes the unfamiliar sight of a submarine to its offspring as 'a tinful of people'.[61]

'Sardines' is also the name of a children's game, where one person hides and each successive person who finds the hidden one packs into the same space until there is only one left out, who becomes the next one to hide.[62]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Based on data sourced from the relevant FAO Species Fact Sheets
  2. ^ "What's an oily fish?". Food Standards Agency. 24 June 2004. 
  3. ^ Sardine Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  4. ^ "Sardine". The Good Food Glossary. BBC Worldwide. 2009. Retrieved 1 November 2009. 
  5. ^ "FAQs". Seafish. Retrieved 22 February 2010. 
  6. ^ Robin Stummer (17 August 2003). "Who are you calling pilchard? It's 'Cornish sardine' to you...". The Independent. Retrieved 1 November 2009. 
  7. ^ "Codex standard for canned sardines and sardine-type products codex stan 94 –1981 REV. 1–1995" (PDF). Codex Alimentarius. FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission. pp. 1–7. Retrieved 18 January 2007. 
  8. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). "Sardina pilchardus in FishBase. April 2012 version.
  9. ^ (Walbaum, 1792)Sardina pilchardus FAO, Species Fact Sheet. Retrieved April 2012.
  10. ^ "Sardina pilchardus".  
  11. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). "Sardinops sagax in FishBase. April 2012 version.
  12. ^ (Jenyns, 1842)Sardinops sagax FAO, Species Fact Sheet. Retrieved April 2012.
  13. ^ "Sardinops sagax".  
  14. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). "Sardinops melanostictus in FishBase. April 2012 version.
  15. ^ (Schlegel, 1846)Sardinops melanostictus FAO, Species Fact Sheet. Retrieved April 2012.
  16. ^ "Sardinops melanostictus".  
  17. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). "Sardinops caeruleus in FishBase. April 2012 version.
  18. ^ (Girard, 1854)Sardinops caeruleus FAO, Species Fact Sheet. Retrieved April 2012.
  19. ^ "Sardinops caeruleus".  
  20. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). "Sardinops ocellatus in FishBase. April 2012 version.
  21. ^ (Pappe, 1854)Sardinops ocellatus FAO, Species Fact Sheet. Retrieved April 2012.
  22. ^ "Sardinops ocellatus".  
  23. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). "Sardinella lemuru in FishBase. April 2012 version.
  24. ^ (Bleeker, 1853)Sardinella lemuru FAO, Species Fact Sheet. Retrieved April 2012.
  25. ^ "Sardinella lemuru".  
  26. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). "Sardinella brasiliensis in FishBase. April 2012 version.
  27. ^ (Steindachner, 1879)Sardinella brasiliensis FAO, Species Fact Sheet. Retrieved April 2012.
  28. ^ "Sardinella brasiliensis".  
  29. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). "Sardinella zunasi in FishBase. April 2012 version.
  30. ^ (Bleeker, 1854)Sardinella zunasi FAO, Species Fact Sheet. Retrieved April 2012.
  31. ^ "Sardinella zunasi".  
  32. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). "Sardinella longiceps in FishBase. April 2012 version.
  33. ^ (Valenciennes, 1847)Sardinella longiceps FAO, Species Fact Sheet. Retrieved April 2012.
  34. ^ "Sardinella longiceps".  
  35. ^ Munroe TA and Priede IG (2010). "Sardinella longiceps".  
  36. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). "Sardinella gibbosa in FishBase. April 2012 version.
  37. ^ (Bleeker, 1849)Sardinella gibbosa FAO, Species Fact Sheet. Retrieved April 2012.
  38. ^ "Sardinella gibbosa".  
  39. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). "Sardinella aurita in FishBase. April 2012 version.
  40. ^ (Valenciennes, 1847)Sardinella aurita FAO, Species Fact Sheet. Retrieved April 2012.
  41. ^ "Sardinella aurita".  
  42. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). "Sardinella maderensis in FishBase. April 2012 version.
  43. ^ (Lowe, 1839)Sardinella maderensis FAO, Species Fact Sheet. Retrieved April 2012.
  44. ^ "Sardinella maderensis".  
  45. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). "Dussumieria acuta in FishBase. April 2012 version.
  46. ^ (Valenciennes, 1847)Dussumieria acuta FAO, Species Fact Sheet. Retrieved April 2012.
  47. ^ "Dussumieria acuta".  
  48. ^ Grant, W. S.; et al. (1998). sequences"b) biogeography: insights from mitochondrial DNA cytochrome Sardinops"Why restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis of mitochondrial DNA failed to resolve sardine (. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 55 (12): 2539–47.  
  49. ^ Retrieved 22 February 2012
  50. ^ Kris-Etherton; Harris, WS; Appel, LJ; American Heart Association. Nutrition Committee; et al. (November 2002). "Fish Consumption, Fish Oil, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Cardiovascular Disease". Circulation 106 (21): 2747–2757.  
  51. ^ Sharon Johnson (6 November 2007). "Oily brain food ... Yum". The Mail Tribune. Retrieved 1 November 2009. 
  52. ^ "Omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil, alpha-linolenic acid: MedlinePlus Supplements". Retrieved 22 January 2010. Fish oil supplements may lower blood sugar levels a small amount. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also lower blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment. 
  53. ^ "Vitamin D and Healthy Bones". New York State Health Department. November 2003. Retrieved 1 November 2009. 
  54. ^ "Vitamin B12". George Mateljan Foundation. Retrieved 11 April 2012. 
  55. ^ "Vitamin B12". EatingWell. Retrieved 11 April 2012. 
  56. ^ "Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish". U S Food and Drug Administration. 5 July 2009. Retrieved 1 November 2009. 
  57. ^ River Cottage: Gone Fishing 22/11/08
  58. ^ EU Directory of PGI/PDO/TSG – Cornish Sardines profile (accessed 1/11/2010)
  59. ^ Clarke Canfield (15 April 2010). "Last sardine plant in U.S. shuts its doors". Associated Press. Retrieved 15 April 2010. 
  60. ^ Traditional Cornish Stories and Rhymes, 1992 edition, Lodenek Press
  61. ^ "Even more Spike Milligan side-splitters" (2012-07-13). Retrieved 2014-02-12.
  62. ^ "Stinky Sardine Club – ITPedia". 9 April 2010. Retrieved 21 June 2012. 


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