Seafood Watch - Seafood Guide

Sardines, Pacific

© Monterey Bay Aquarium
Sardines Good Alternative: These are good alternatives to the best choices column. There are some concerns with how they are fished or farmed – or with the health of their habitats due to other human impacts. European Pilchard, Iwashi, Pilchard, Sardine Marine Stewardship Council Certified Wild
Sardines, Atlantic Avoid: Avoid these products for now. These fish come from sources that are overfished or fished or farmed in ways that harm the environment. European Pilchard, Iwashi, Pilchard, Sardine Mediterranean Wild
Sardines, Pacific Best Choice: These fish are abundant, well managed and fished or farmed in environmentally friendly ways. Iwashi, Pilchard, Sardine U.S., Canada Purse Seine

Pacific Sardines, Purse Seine, Canada & U.S.

Pacific sardines are a "Best Choice" as there's little bycatch and low habitat impacts. However, sardine populations are vulnerable to natural fluctuations with changing ocean conditions, and when combined with fishing there's the potential for steep declines, even if best management practices are followed.

Consumer Note

The name "sardines" is applied to many small fishes of the herring family, but most commonly refers to Pacific sardines. Sardines are known as iwashi when prepared for sushi.


Pacific sardines are fished with purse seines. This type of fishing gear does not make contact with the ocean floor in this fishery, and so there are low concerns about habitat impacts. This type of gear is also an efficient way to catch schooling fish, such as sardines, with minimal bycatch of other species.

Sardines reproduce rapidly, but their populations depend on favorable ocean conditions, which have natural variability, in addition to warming oceans associated with global climate change.

Sardines are an important part of the oceanic food web, sometimes known as "forage fish." Many species of forage fish are used as bait, or to feed some farm-raised fish such as bluefin tuna.

Changing ocean conditions and fishing pressure on this species for animal feed is of concern to scientists and fisheries managers, who are assessing how best to manage this species, both as a source of food for human consumption, and for ocean wildlife who depend on it.

Scientific Reports About Our Ratings
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How fish are caught or farmed makes a difference. Fishing boat