Skip to main content
South American Pilchard

  Pelagic fish

South American Pilchard

South American Pilchard

Identity card

South American Pilchard

Scientific name:
Sardinops sagax
Year of description:
Jenyns, 1842
IUCN Status:
Least Concern

Not evaluated.


Indo-Pacific, from southern Africa to the eastern Pacific, including on the Californian coast occasionally.


Down to a depth of 200 m, but usual depth: 30 m


On average 20 cm, max. 39.5 cm. Weight : maximum 486 g


The young fish feed on zooplankton such as copepod and the adults on phytoplankton.


25 years.

South American Pilchard

This fish feeds on phyto- and zooplankton in the larval and juvenile stages (copepod and larvae)


The sardine belongs to the Clupeidae family which includes sardines and herrings, and is among the most consumed fish species.

It is sold fresh, frozen or canned, and eaten fried or grilled. It is also used as a forage fish, transformed into fishmeal and fed to farmed fish.

Did you know?

Augmented-reality experience

The California pilchard is one species that you will be able to discover in the Grand Large experience.

Where is the animal to be found?

The sardine (Sardinops sagax), also called the California pilchard or South American pilchard is a silvery fish that lives in shoals in the first 200 metres under the surface of the sea. It is therefore said to be a pelagic fish because it can be found in open water on the high seas. It is a migratory fish that lives in the Indo-Pacific waters from southern Africa to the eastern Pacific. Around South America it is caught down to depths of about 40 m and forms large shoals in the Humboldt Current. Likewise, around North America where it forms shoals of up to 10 million individuals and migrates northwards between the waters of California and British Colombia in summer, and returns southwards in autumn and winter. Pilchards live in temperatures ranging from 16 to 23°C in summer and 10 to 18 °C in winter.

How can it be recognised?

The body is an elongated cylindrical shape, with blue-green reflections on its back and white flanks, typical of pelagic fish. Bony ridges on the operculum – called scutes – distinguish this sardine from the region’s other Clupeidae. Furthermore it is larger around New Zealand.

What is distinctive about it?

Sardines or pilchards reach sexual maturity when they are 9 cm long and most of them breed starting from their second year: sardines’ eggs and larvae are pelagic.

Threat and protective measure

The effects of global warming, which have caused water temperatures to rise, could lead to variations in population distribution areas, i.e. sardines could migrate to cooler waters.

South American Pilchard

Where can I find it at Nausicaá?

Journey on the High Seas

Grand Large experience

The Ocean Mag

Browse through our Ocean Mag

A la une

A treaty on biodiversity in the high seas

What is BBNJ? The name of the latest K-Pop boy band? The acronym of a bank?

banc de mérous ile de malpelo


What to do on the Opal Coast when it’s raining?

The Opal Coast is a destination reputed for its variety of water sports and nature activities, but what’s there to do in the region when it rains?