Pacific Sardine (Sardinops caeruleus)

Unlike the young of herring, which are often marketed as sardines, the Pacific sardine is a true sardine. Once one of the most important commercial fish along the Pacific coast, the Pacific sardine population has been depleted by pollution and overfishing. Most commercial fish are canned or processed to make fish meal, fertilizer, or oil; Pacific sardines are not marketed fresh.


The Pacific sardine has an elongated body, a compressed head, and a small mouth with no teeth. It is silvery with dark blue on the back, shades of purple and violet along the sides, and black spots along both the sides and the back. It can be distinguished from the typical herring by the absence of a sharp ridge of scales (which is found down the midline of the belly of a herring) and by vertical ridges on its gill covers.

Life history/Behavior

In the summer, Pacific sardines migrate northward from California to British Columbia and return in the autumn or the winter. They form large schools of various-size fish. Their eggs are pelagic, and, unlike the eggs of herring, they float. Individuals generally mature in their second year.


The Pacific sardine feeds mainly by filtering zooplankton and phytoplankton.

Other Names

pilchard, California pilchard, California sardine, sardina; Spanish: pilchard California, sardina de California, sardina Monterrey.


In the eastern Pacific, Pacific sardines occur from southeastern Alaska to Cabo San Lucas, and throughout the Gulf of California, Mexico.