Northern Anchovy

The Science

When anchovies swim with their mouths open, they are feeding on plankton in the water [3]

The Fishery

Having a large distribution helps to stabilize the Anchovy population [6]

The Seafood

Anchovies can mistake the smell of plastic for food, which can in turn be harmful for human consumption [8]

The Science

The Science
Allie Caulfield: August 20, 2011

Taxonomic description

  • Small and thin- typically grow up to seven inches [1, 2, 3]
  • Have a large mouth and a long, protruding snout [1,2]
  • Blue-green color on top, and lustrous silver below [1,2,4]
  • Adults have a silver stripe along their side [1,2]


  • Found along the West Coast of North America from British Columbia down to the Baja California, Mexico, as well as the Gulf of California [ 4, 5]
  • In the United States, they are subdivided into two populations, one sub-population off of Oregon and Washington and the other ranging from California to Baja, California [1,2]


Life history

  • Have a short life cycle- can spawn at two years and live four to seven years [1,2,4]
  • Naturally high mortality rate, 45-55% of populations die of natural causes a year [1,2]
  • Spawn year-round, but most frequently in the winter and spring [2,4,6]
  • Eggs are released in batches every 7-10 days, and hatching depends on the temperature of the water- typically between 2-4 days [2,4]
  • Fertilize through broadcast spawning [4]


  • Live in pelagic areas, usually within 30km from the shore [6]
  • They are a critical aspect of the food web [1, 4]
    • Serve as food for many species of fish, marine mammals, and birds [4]
    • Are hosts of endoparasites [4]
    • Predators include albacore and chub mackerel [4]
  • For protection against predators, they form schools [4]
  • Though they are filter feeders, they use scent to find prey [8] 
    • A study has concluded that they can mistake the smell of plastics smells for food [8]

The Fishery

The Fishery
Robert Brigham: June 1968

Seasonal availability

  • Available year-round [1]

Managing authority

  • Managed by NOAA Fisheries and Pacific Fishery Management Council [1]
  • Under the Coastal Pelagic Species Fishery Management Plan [1]
  • Federal and state agencies coordinate so that regulations are consistent [1]

Gear type

  • Predominantly caught with purse seines, but also with lampara nets [6, 9]

Status of the fishery

  • Population levels are unknown, but thought to be abundant [1, 4]
  • Stock assessments are not done on subpopulations, but data to help monitor populations has been collected [1]
  • Both northern and central sub-populations have defined overfishing limits [1]
  • Population considered to be stable and of least concern by IUCN Red List [4, 6]
  • Large distribution, including in Marine Protected Areas, mitigating threat [6]

Potential ecosystem impacts

  • Because the gear used functions near the surface, there is minimal habitat destruction [1]

The Seafood

The Seafood

Edible portions

  • Can eat the entire body after removing the head and guts [7]
  • Bones are also edible [7]

Description of meat

  • Fresh anchovies are soft, canned anchovies are firm [2]
  • The color of the meat depends on the way it is being used:
    • Due to salt-curing, canned anchovies are light red [2]
    • Fresh are gray, cooked are off-white [2]

Culinary uses

  • Can be eaten fresh, but are most commonly preserved in cans or jars [10, 11]
  • Commonly used in sauces and dressings, such as Caesar salad dressing [10]
  • Often used on pizza and in pasta dishes [10, 11]
  • Can be easily fried, as shown above [7]
  • Uses and recipe information can be found on FoodNetwork source 11 [11]

Nutritional information 

  • Nutrition facts given are for a 100-gram serving [2]
  • Good source of calcium, iron, niacin, phosphorus, and selenium [2]
  • High in cholesterol [2]

Toxicity report

  • Because anchovies are filter feeders, it is important to make sure the guts are removed, and the fish is rinsed [7]
  • Anchovies mistaking plastic for food can in turn be harmful for human consumption [8]

Seasonal availability

  • Year round [2]


[1] NOAA Fisheries. Northern Anchovy. Web. Accessed: 29 November 2018


[2] FishWatch. 2017. Northern Anchovy. Web. Accessed: 29 November 2018 


[3] Monterey Bay Aquarium. 2018. Northern anchovy. Web. Accessed: 29 November 2018


[4] Davis, T., E. DelaTorre, and A. Raub. Year. Animal Diversity Web: Northern Anchovy. Web. Accessed: 29 November 2018 


[5] Oceana. Northern Anchovy. Web. Accessed: 29 November 2018


[6]Iwamoto, T., Eschmeyer, W., Alvarado, J. 2010. Engraulis mordax. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Web. Accessed: 29 November 2018 


[7] FreshCatch. Northern Anchovy. Web. Accessed: 6 December 2018 


[8] Savoca, Matthew. 2017. Bait and Switch: Anchovies Eat Plastic Because It Smells Like Prey. Web. Accessed: 7 December 2018 


[9] Environmental Defense Fund. Year. EDF Seafood Selector. Web. Accessed: 7 December 2018


[10] Busch, Sandi. 2018. What Are the Health Benefits of Anchovies. Web. Accessed: 10 January 2019


[11] Hirsch, J.M. 2011. Off the Beaten Aisle: Anchovies. Web. Accessed: 10 January 2019