Australian Sardine

Latin name: Sardinops sagax

Common names: Pilchard, Sardine, Sardines

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Wild Caught


Key Facts

  • Australian sardines are caught in commercial fisheries across southern Australia. The SA-managed fishery, is the largest, though the great majority of catch is not for human consumption purposes.
  • Australian sardine populations are healthy in all fisheries.
  • The South Australian sardine fishery uses purse seine fishing methods that pose a low risk to vulnerable marine habitats.
  • Only a small quantity of the Australian sardines caught in South Australia are for human consumption. Most catch used as feed for fish farms.
  • The fishing industry and fishery managers were able to develop measures to address previous issues of dolphin deaths off SA, but there is concerning evidence that fishers are not adequately complying with these measures when independent scrutiny of fishing activity is not occurring.

More information

  • South Australian Sardine Fishery (38,024t in 2020/21)

The Australian sardine is a small, very fast-growing fish found across southern Australia. They are an important prey species for a range of predators, such as dolphins, whales, tunas, and seabirds. There are a number of fisheries targeting Australian sardines around the country, with the largest fishery operating off SA. The sardines from this fishery are mainly used to feed southern bluefin tuna farmed off the SA coast, or used for feed in other fish farming operations, with a small amount available for human consumption.

Robust scientific stock assessments undertaken in SA indicate that fishing is set at appropriate levels and there are no concerns over the amount of fishing taking place.
Sardines are caught using purse seines in the SA fishery, which is a relatively targeted fishing method with little finfish bycatch. There are some concerns over accidenta captures of short-beak common dolphins in the nets, and while significant efforts to improve fisher reporting of dolphin bycatch and implement reduction and avoidance measures have proven effective, there is recent concerning evidence that these measures are not being completely adhered to when independent scrutiny of fishing activity is not being applied. This has increased the risk to dolphins in the fishery and resulted in a downgrade in the GoodFish ranking of this fishery from green to amber in the current assessment.

Purse seine fisheries pose minimal risk to marine habitats in South Australia.