- Australian sardines, also known as pilchards, are caught around the coast of Australia, from Southern Queensland to Western Australia.
What’s the Catch?
- On average, approximately 40,000 tonnes of sardines are caught every year in Australia, greater than any other wild-caught fish.
- Sardines are a fast growing and robust species and the stock status is classified as sustainable.
- Sardines are an incredibly healthy food option, providing a rich source of omega-3 oils. They also contain protein, iron, zinc, vitamin D and niacin.
- Despite being the most heavily fished wild caught species, and a healthy food option, only a fraction of sardines caught in Australia are used for human consumption.
- The majority is instead used to feed southern bluefin tuna, ranched in sea pens off South Australia. Most of these tuna are then sold to Japan.
- Sardines are mainly caught with purse seine nets, a relatively targeted fishing method with minimal bycatch. However in South Australia there have been instances of common dolphins being accidentally caught in the nets. While the extent of this problem remains unclear, dolphin bycatch has been reduced following the introduction of a code of practice for fishermen to avoid encirclements and release encircled animals.
- Canned sardines are eaten in Australia, however the majority of canned sardines are imported from Canada and Thailand.
- The sustainability of imported canned sardines and the bycatch that results from the fishing practices that are used cannot be certain, as the exact fisheries the sardines are sourced from are not on the label.
What’s the Solution?
- Choose sardines as a healthier and more sustainable alternative to larger, less sustainable fish.
- Look for fisheries operating sustainably, for example the West Coast Metropolitan Purse Seine Fishery in Western Australia, producer of ‘Fremantle Sardines’.
- Choose Australian sardines over imported canned sardines. There is no need to import what is already abundant in Australia. By eating sardines sourced from Australia you can support local industry, ensure the sustainability of the fisheries they are sourced from and avoid the environmental impact of transporting food from the other side of the world.
What’s the Recipe?
- The Australian Marine Conservation Society on sardines
- Good Fish Bad Fish on sardines
- The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation
What's the Catch premieres 8.30pm Thursday 30 October on SBS ONE.
Join in the conversation using #whatsthecatch