State Museum of Natural History
Biodiversity Data Centre

Engraulis encrasicolus (Linnaeus, 1758)

  • Clupea encrasicolus Linnaeus, 1758
  • Anchoa guineensis (Rossignol & Blache, 1961)
  • Anchoviella guineensis Rossignol & Blache, 1961
  • Engraulis amara Risso, 1827
  • Engraulis argyrophanus Valenciennes, 1848
  • Engraulis capensis Gilchrist, 1913
Vernacular Name
European Anchovy, Anchovy, Anchovy Paste, Black Sea Anchovy, Italian Sardel, South African Anchovy, Southern African Anchovy
Conservation status
No status defined
Value of species
In the Black Sea and Azov Sea, there are minimum catch sizes: 6.5 cm (Georgia and Ukraine), 7 cm (Romania), 8 cm (Bulgaria) and 9 cm (Turkey). In the Black Sea, minimum catch size is 10 cm (Unsal 1989). In the Mediterranean Sea, the minimum catch size set by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) is 9 cm.
In the east Atlantic, this species is present from Bergen, Norway to East London, South Africa (perhaps reaching Durban; Whitehead 1990). In the west Indian Ocean, it is present in Mauritius, Seychelles and upwelling areas around Somalia (Whitehead et al. 1988). In the Eastern Central Atlantic, it is found throughout entire area, including Canary Islands and possibly Madeira. It occurs in the Azores, Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea and Azov Sea. It possibly mixes with E. capensis southward from the Angolan/Namibian border. In the Eastern Central Atlantic (ECA), this species is considered to be fully exploited (FAO CECAF 2011). The Working Group for Small Pelagics recommended that the effort should not exceed the present level. Reported FAO catch statistics in the ECA show gradual increase in landings over the past 60 years (1950-2010), with the exception of an extremely high catch in 1990 of more than 340,000 tonnes. However, catches in the last 10 years (2000-2010) show an estimated 40% decline from 200,000 tonnes in to approximately 120,000 tonnes (FishSTAT J). However, this decline is not considered to be significant, as overall catches are increasing. At least from Morocco to Gambia, although this species is considered fully exploited, it is not considered that catches are declining and effort is considered stable. This species is most commercially important in Morocco. This species is most abundant in Morocco and Mauritania. In Mauritania, this species is not targeted by artisanal fisheries and the industrial fisheries have size limitations. In Nigeria, this species is abundant and is important in commercial fisheries, with no record of decline in catch. In Ghana, this species is one of the most popular small pelagic species, and is abundant. It is mainly exploited by the artisanal fisheries after the upwelling season (as they change from Sardinella species). They change their net size to catch this species. This species is also taken by the tuna bait boats (1,000-2,000 tonnes per year). In Ghana, catches for this species are fluctuating, but overall there is a decline in catch. In Benin, this is the same stock as in Ghana, and since 2003 there is also a trend of declining catch. In Guinea, this species is not frequently caught, and is reported as mixed stock as it represents less than five percent of all catches. In Gambia, this species is not important, and it is really only caught as by-catch by purse seine. In Senegal, this species is not reported separately, and it is not as commercially important. This is a very common and abundant species in the Mediterranean Sea. This coastal, pelagic species is found mainly in shallow water (to 50 m) and to depths of about 400 m, often forming large shoals and is migratory. It is euryhaline, tolerating salinities of five to 41% and in some areas entering lagoons, estuaries or lakes, especially in the warmer months during spawning season. Spawning occurs multiple times over an extended period from April to November with peaks usually in the warmest months, the limits of the spawning season dependent on temperature and thus more restricted in northern areas. Eggs ellipsoidal to oval, floating in the upper 50 m, hatching in 24 to 65 hours. After hatching, larvae are colourless and transparent. Growth is rapid with fish reaching a length of 9-10 cm after one year. First spawning occurs at sizes greater than 12-13 cm. Maximum age of individuals from southwestern Africa was three years. Two hyaline rings are formed annually on otoliths; one being clearly visible, well formed and laid down in June-July, the other diffuse, faint, and laid down in November-December. It feeds on planktonic organisms, chiefly copepods, cirripede and mollusc larvae, and fish eggs and larvae. In the Mediterranean Sea, it occupies nearly all the water column, with the core of the population occurring in less then 50 m depth. In winter months it moves deeper in the water column (to around 200 m). Depth range in Mediterranean Sea is from sea level to 285 m and it is common over the continental shelf. A study of Lloret et al. (2004) provide evidence of the influence of riverine inputs and wind mixing on the productivity of small pelagic fish such as Engraulis encrasicolus in the Mediterranean Sea. It tends to move further north and into surface waters in summer, retreating and descending in winter. It feeds on planktonic organisms (Plounevez and Champalbert 2000). It spawns from April to November with peaks usually in the warmest months. In the central Adriatic Sea the main reproductive activities occurs between April and September (Sinovcic and Zorica 2006). In the Adriatic, age at maturity is reported as 8.2 cm (males and females; Sinovcic and Zorica 2006). In the Ligurian sea juvenile and post larvae occur in shallow waters from September to January (Tunesi et al. 2005). The sex ratio is 45% female (Koranteng 1993). A study on the genetic of E. encrasicolus in the Mediterranean Sea (Tudela et al. 1999) underline that in this basin there is a single subpopulation with different spawning grounds. Individuals in the eastern Mediterranean Sea (Israel) are smaller than individuals further west. Maximum size is 20 cm standard length and it is common to 12 to 15 cm. This is a species with high commercial importance. It is marketed fresh, dried, smoked, canned and frozen, and can be used as fish meal (Frimodt 1995). Black Sea adult anchovies can reach around 12–15 cm (4 1⁄2–6 in). In the summer, hamsi migrates north to warm shallow waters of the Azov Sea to feed and breed, returning to the deep for the winter by migrating through the Strait of Kerch. During migration the fish moves in huge schools, and are actively hunted by gulls and dolphins. Hamsi makes up a considerable part of fishing and fish processing industries, either canned or frozen. In Turkey, it is the staple food of the local Black sea cuisine, widely used in pan dishes, baked goods, even as dessert. In Bulgaria hamsiya is traditionally fried and served in cheap fast-food restaurants along the shore, typically with beer. Since the 1990s the dominant position of fried hamsiya is fading but still popular. Anchovy populations in the Mediterranean were severely depleted in the 1980s by the invasive comb jelly Mnemiopsis leidyi which eats the eggs and young, they have since stabilized albeit at a much lower level.
Book reference
  • Котенко Т.И., Ардамацкая Т.Б., Дубина Д.В. и др. Биоразнообразие Джарылгача: современное состояние и пути сохранения // Вісник зоології. – 2000. – Спец. випуск. – 240 с.
  • Соколов Н.Ю. Каталог колекції круглоротих і риб Державного природознавчого музею НАН України // Наукові записки Державного природознавчого музею. – Львів, 2004. – Т.19. – С. 15-28.
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Taxonomic branch