Australian Sardine

Latin name: Sardinops sagax

Common names: Sardine, Pilchard, Sardines

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Wild Caught


Key Facts

  • The majority of Australian sardines are caught in the SA-managed fishery, with a high proportion for human consumption caught off the west coast of WA.
  • Catches of Australian sardines in SA, NSW, WA and VIC are set at appropriate levels and there are no concerns over the amount of fishing taking place.
  • The fishing industry and fishery managers have addressed previous issues of dolphin deaths off SA. The voluntary Code of Practice introduced to reduce dolphin deaths has proved effective, with deaths reduced by 97% over the past decade.
  • A voluntary Code of Practice in VIC also addresses bycatch of seals and dolphins, although improved observer coverage would support industry reporting.
  • The WA west coast fishery catches the bulk of sardines for human consumption in WA, and is not a risk to endangered marine wildlife.

Cooking & Recipes


Sardines are a quick and easy meal, high in beneficial Omega-3’s as well as being affordable and delicious. They are increasingly available as boneless ‘butterflied sardines’ with only the tail attached. These can be quickly barbequed or placed under a grill or in a hot oven. They will take less than 5 minutes to cook, making them a great quick meal. Butterflied sardines are also delicious crumbed and fried. Try some parsley and lemon zest in with the breadcrumbs. Whole sardines can be barbecued or roast, requiring only 3-4 minutes per side at high heat to cook through. Squeeze lots of lemon over them and top with fresh herbs to serve.

More information

  • SA Sardine Fishery (41,000t 2016)
  • VIC Port Phillip Bay Purse Seine Fishery (508t in 2019-20)
  • WA West Coast Purse-seine Fishery (1,232t in 2015)

The Australian sardine is a small, very fast-growing fish. It is an important prey species for a range of predators, such as Australian fur seals and species of tuna. 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.

The SA and VIC fishery targets the same stock of Australian sardines; robust 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.

There are two fisheries catching sardines in WA. The west coast fishery provides the majority that are available for human consumption; stocks in both are healthy.

Sardines are caught using purse seines in the SA fishery, which is a relatively targeted fishing method with little finfish bycatch. Previous concerns over accidental captures of short-beak common dolphins in the nets have been addressed by extensive efforts from fishers and fishery managers to successfully reduce the number of dolphin interactions. Research has identified that the fishers are adhering to a voluntary Code of Practice and are reporting dolphin deaths adequately. Changes to fishing practises have reduced dolphin deaths by 97% over a decade, which is a significant achievement. Deaths of Australian fur seals and Australian sea lions have also been reduced to close to zero. Independent fishery observation supports these results.

A Code of Practice designed to reduce bycatch has also been introduced in VIC. Interactions with endangered wildlife are minimal and are not considered to present a risk to populations for seals or dolphins. Independent observer coverage in  VIC is necessary to support these findings.

The south coast sardine fishery in WA has a significant issue with bycatch of flesh-footed shearwaters. Mortalities as a result of fishing activity are likely driving population declines on some islands that house breeding populations of flesh-footed shearwaters off the WA coast. However, the majority of this catch is used as bait or for feed for farming fish, and not for human consumption. This assessment does not cover this fishery.

The WA west coast fishery is unlikely to pose a threat to flesh-footed shearwaters or other protected species, and operates in waters distant from flesh-footed shearwater breeding colonies.

Purse seine fisheries pose minimal risk to marine habitat.