Sardines are c ommonly known as a fish in a can, but fresh sardines are catching on with chefs and seafood lovers due to their affordability and health benefits (they also taste great on the grill!). These little fish are packed with healthy nutrients such as calcium, protein, iron, potassium, phosphorus, and omega-3 fatty acids.


In addition to the high concentration of beneficial nutrients, Pacific sardines are an ocean-friendly seafood choice, which makes it a good choice all around. If you haven’t tried fresh sardines yet, put the recipe below to the test!

Also known as:

sardine, pilchard

Availability:

January - September (fresh); year-round (frozen, canned, smoked)

Product forms:

Fresh and frozen (fillets and whole fish), canned, or smoked

Shopping tips:

Pacific sardines are available year-round, but the best time of year to try fresh sardines is between January and September. Sardines are especially delicious when grilled.

Substitutions:

Pacific sardines can be substituted for (and are a good substitute for) other oily fish, such as mackerel.

Recipes:

 

Pacific sardine fishery: The U.S. Pacific sardine fishery takes place primarily off the coast of California and Oregon, with some landings also coming off the coast of Washington. More.

Conservation notes:

Pacific sardines are considered an ocean-friendly seafood choice because they grow and mature quickly, the fishery is effectively managed, and the fishing gear used does not impact sea floor habitats More.
Last updated: September 2011

 

U.S. Pacific Sardine Fishery

The U.S. Pacific sardine fishery takes place primarily off the coast of California and Oregon, with some landings also coming off the coast of Washington. Pacific sardines are managed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), one of eight regional fishery management bodies that oversee US fisheries.
Pacific sardine are typically caught using “round haul” gear, including purse seines, drum seines and lampara nets. Round haul gear utilizes large nets set around targeted schools of fish. Once the school is encircled, the net is tightened (or pursed) and the catch is either hauled directly onto the fishing vessel or the catch is pumped from alongside the vessel on to the deck.


The PFMC sets annual quotas for Pacific sardines based on scientific surveys and stock assessments. Other controls also exist in the fishery such as limited entry, fishing gear restrictions and bycatch monitoring.

Conservation Notes 

Pacific sardines are considered an ocean-friendly seafood choice because they grow and mature quickly, the fishery is well-managed, and the fishing gear used does not negatively impact the habitat in which it is used.
The fast growth rate and quick time to maturity of the Pacific sardine, means populations can likely withstand a moderate level of fishing pressure. However, because coastal pelagic species such as Pacific sardines are greatly impacted by environmental variables, fisheries managers must be careful to consider many other factors when allotting quotas to the fishery, such as water temperature.


Some types of commercial fishing gear can cause negative impacts to sea-floor habitats or may catch large numbers of unwanted fishes and other animals (bycatch). The round haul gear used to catch Pacific sardines is highly efficient, and has a very low rate of bycatch. The gear also has little to no contact with the seafloor, which significantly reduces the risk of impacting sea-floor habitats.