Blackstripe Herring

Blackstripe Herring, Lile nigrofasciata

The Blackstripe Herring, Lile nigrofasciata, whose common Spanish name is sardinita raya negra, is a member of the Herring or Clupeidia Family known collectively as sardinas in Mexico. There are only four global members of the genus Lile, and all four are found in Mexican waters, one in the Atlantic and three in the Pacific.

The Blackstripe Herrings have deep compressed bodies with a convex lower profile and a depth that is 24 to 28% of standard length. They are yellow-green dorsally and transition to white ventrally. They have a dark green dorsal stripe and a wide silver stripe on their sides. The tips of their caudal and dorsal fins are black. Their anal, pectoral, and pelvic fins are translucent with a yellow tinge. Their eyes have a black iris and a white to translucent pupil. The inside of their gill cover is dark. Their head has a pointed snout and a small oblique mouth that opens at the front. Their anal fin is short with 14 to 16 rays and originates behind the dorsal fin. Their caudal fin is deeply forked. Their dorsal fin has 13 to 17 rays and originates even or before the pelvic fins. They have 29 to 32 gill rakers and their body is covered with large scales.

The Blackstripe Herrings are a small pelagic coastal schooling species found along sandy and muddy shores; they are also found in brackish waters and high salinity estuaries at depths up to 5 feet. They reach a maximum length of 13.0 cm (5.1 inches) and are virtually weightless.

In Mexican waters the Blackstripe Herring are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from Magdalena Bay northward along the central and northwest coasts of Baja and in the northern third of the Sea of Cortez.

The Blackstripe Herring is most likely confused with the Graceful Herring, Lile gracilis (dorsal fin behind pelvic fins; caudal lobes without black tips) and the Striped Herring, Lile stolifera (deeper body; wider mid-body stripe).

The Blackstripe Herrings are exceedingly rare, poorly studied, and of limited interest to most. Quality photographs of this species are non-existent and the identification of the fish presented below should be considered tentative.

Blackstripe Herring, Lile nigrofasciata. Fish caught with a cast net off a pier in Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos, Baja California Sur, April 2016. Length: 9.0 cm (3.5 inches). Catch courtesy of Jimmy Camacho.