(U.S., Canada, Purse Seine)
Pacific sardines are a "Best Choice" as there's little bycatch and low habitat impacts. However, sardine populations are vulnerable to natural fluctuations with changing ocean conditions, and when combined with fishing there's the potential for steep declines, even if best management practices are followed.
Iwashi, Pilchard, Sardine
The name "sardines" is applied to many small fishes of the herring family, but most commonly refers to Pacific sardines. Sardines are known as iwashi when prepared for sushi.
Pacific sardines are fished with purse seines. This type of fishing gear does not make contact with the ocean floor in this fishery, and so there are low concerns about habitat impacts. This type of gear is also an efficient way to catch schooling fish, such as sardines, with minimal bycatch of other species.
Sardines reproduce rapidly, but their populations depend on favorable ocean conditions, which have natural variability, in addition to warming oceans associated with global climate change.
Sardines are an important part of the oceanic food web, sometimes known as "forage fish." Many species of forage fish are used as bait, or to feed some farm-raised fish such as bluefin tuna.
Changing ocean conditions and fishing pressure on this species for animal feed is of concern to scientists and fisheries managers, who are assessing how best to manage this species, both as a source of food for human consumption, and for ocean wildlife who depend on it.