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Pacific sardine

Pacific sardines

On Exhibit: Open Sea , Kelp Forest

Animal Facts

  • Scientific Name

    Sardinops sagax

  • Animal Type


  • Diet


  • Size

    to 15 inches (38 cm)

  • Relatives

    herring; Family: Clupeidae

  • Habitat

    Open Waters

  • Range

    southeast Alaska to California; coast of Peru and Chile

Natural History

Staying together's their way of life. Like synchronized swimmers, sardines in a school move together as one. This communal lifestyle's good for these small fish. When predators come near, there's safety in numbers. And when it's time to reproduce, there's no need to seek out mates—plenty are close at hand.


It's been a boom and bust history for the Pacific sardine fishery. During the 1920s through the 1940s, sardines were the most important commercial fish in California. However, under high demand for canned fish, fish meal and oil, this species was fished to the point of commercial extinction. Due to strict fisheries management and improved habitat conditions, Pacific sardine populations began to recover in the 1980s and now support a modest fishery off California.

Cool Facts

Sardines are an important part of the open water food web. Many birds, marine mammals and other fishes eat sardines as a mainstay of their diets.

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