7 Oct 2014 - 2:13 PM  UPDATED 7 Oct 2014 - 2:16 PM

What species?

Sardines, also known as pilchards, are caught around the coast of Australia, from Southern Queensland to Western Australia.

What’s the catch?

  • 34,000 tonnes of sardines are caught every year in Australia, more than any other fish.
  • Despite this, according to government stock assessments, sardines are not overfished in Australian waters.
  • This is due in part to the fact that sardines are a fast growing species and are quick to reproduce, replenishing their numbers quickly if they become depleted.
  • Sardines are an incredibly healthy food option. They are high in omega-3’s, contain virtually no mercury and are packed with calcium. They also contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese as well as B vitamins. 
  • Despite being the most heavily fished species, and an incredibly healthy option, less than 5% of sardines caught in Australia are used for human consumption. 
  • The majority is instead used to feed the Southern Bluefin Tuna in the sea-ranches off South Australia. Most of these tuna are then sold to Japan.
  • In Australia, sardines are mainly caught by purse seine to minimise bycatch.
  • The bycatch of dolphins caught in the sardine purse seines off South Australia is concerning as between 2010-11 it is estimated between 7 and 22 dolphins were killed.
  • This dolphin bycatch has been lowered by 2/3 due to improved methods and a code of practice that will hopefully continue to improve.
  • The Australian Marine Conservation Society says the bycatch of flesh-footed shearwaters, a protected migratory bird, in the Western Australian sardine fisheries is driving population declines.
  • The Australian Marine Conservation Society recommends saying no to sardines from Western Australia and eating less sardines from the South Australian and Commonwealth fisheries.
  • 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.
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?

Drunken sardines on toast

More information

The Australian Marine Conservation Society on sardines
Good Fish Bad Fish on sardines 


View our Sardines infographic