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Anchovies are occasionally caught by Cornish ring net fishermen. Famous as the salty little fish you find on pizzas, anchovies are a small oily fish, with a strong flavour. Anchovies are used to add flavour to many dishes and sauces; they can commonly be found as toppings for pizzas, as a key ingredient in Worcestershire Sauce, and are widely used in Mediterranean cooking. 

Sustainability Overview

Anchovy are a resilient species and as such can sustain relatively high levels of fishing pressure. However, because they are near the base of the marine food chain, the impact of their large-scale removal on the marine ecosystem is poorly understood. Recruitment to the stock (the process by which young fish join the fishery) is affected by environmental factors including climatic fluctuations. The Anchovies that are caught around Cornwall are likely to be stock from further south that move here with warm water currents in the summer  and autumn. The stocks of anchovy in the Bay of Biscay are thought to have increased in ourwaters and are healthy at present and fishing effort in Cornish waters is low. 

In 2021 a total of 31 tonnes of anchovies were landed to Cornish ports with a value of £17k (MMO data).

Updated July 2023

Sustainability ratings for this species

Ring Netting

Cornish waters VIIe- h

Ring netting is a selective low impact method of fishing for mid water species.

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How we rate fish

Cornwall Good Seafood Guide rates fish on sustainability using a scale of 1 to 5.

1, 2 and 3 are recommended, Fish to avoid are rated 5.

We use the system devised by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) so our scores are comparable with the scores produced by MCS for the UK and fisheries from all around the world. For more information on scoring click here.


Anchovy are a small, silver fish, related to herring. They are a short-lived species, generally living for less than three years. They are found in large shoals, and feed on plankton and small fry (recently hatched fish larvae). They are found in the East Atlantic, principally in the Mediterranean and off the Atlantic coasts of Portugal, Spain and France (although they can be found as far north as Norway and as far south as South Africa).  They tend to move north and into surface waters in summer, then retreat and descend into deeper waters during winter. Average size at maturity is 13.5 cm in length; although they can reach 20 cm. Spawning occurs in estuaries and lakes over an extended period from April to November, with peaks usually in the warmest months (June to August in the Channel and southern North Sea, and April to September in the Mediterranean). They are infrequently found by Cornish fishermen but usually in the autumn or winter.

Stock Info

The Bay of Biscay anchovy fishery was closed in 2005, following the collapse of the stock due to a combination of long periods of overfishing and a failure of recruitment during 2004. The fishery re-opened in July 2010 with a noticeable recovery; stock levels are now deemed to be healthy and have full reproductive capacity. As such, anchovy from The Bay of Biscay fishery is now a sustainable choice. 
Stocks west of Portugal are reported to be increasing by ICES. The CEFAS Peltic survey carried out annually reported in 2019 increased stocks of anchovies in our waters. They have a patchy distribution but they appear to be moving further north in recent years and are now being found as far north as the Bristol Channel. Juvenile anchovies were found of the french coast for the first time by the Peltic survey in that area in 2019 which was interesting and may back up the theory that this stock is linked to the biscay population. 


There are currently no restrictions on catches of anchovies in our area. There is no reason to believe that the scale of fishing for anchovy is resulting in overfishing at present. The Anchovies found off Cornwall are likely to be stock from the Bay of Biscay that move here with warm water currents in summer and autumn months. 

Capture Info

The main methods for catching anchovy by are by pelagic trawl (30%) and purse seine netting (65%). However Cornish vessels are primarily catching anchovy using smaller ring net gear. Both methods have little or no impact on the seafloor; however pelagic trawling can be associated with incidents of cetacean (dolphin) bycatch.


CEFAS PELTIC Survey Report 2019
CEFAS fisheries FSP Programme 40: Sardine and anchovy off Southwest England 2012
Cheung, W.W.L., T.J. Pitcher and D. Pauly, 2005. A fuzzy logic expert system to estimate intrinsic extinction vulnerabilities of marine fishes to fishing. Biol. Conserv. 124:97-111
MMO landings data to Cornish ports.

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