Pacific Sardine

Pacific Sardine, Sardinops sagax

The Pacific Sardine, Sardinops sagax, whose common Spanish name is sardina monterrey, is a member of the Herring or Clupeidia Family, known collectively as sardinas in Mexico. This fish is also known as the California Pilchard. There are only two global members of the genus Sardinops, one of which is found in Mexican waters, the species from the Pacific.

The Pacific Sardines have slender elongated rounded fusiform bodies with a depth that is 17 to 21% of standard length. They are blue dorsally, silvery on their sides, and white ventrally. They have a row of black spots on their sides allowing for easy identification. They have a relatively large oblique mouth that opens at the front and reaches the center of their eyes. Their anal fin has a short base with 17 spines and originates well behind the dorsal fin; their caudal fin is forked; their dorsal fin is located mid-body with no spinaes and 14 rays; and their pelvic fins are under the rear of the dorsal fin. They have very short gill rakers.

The Pacific Sardines are a pelagic coastal schooling species found on the surface in the surf zone at depths up to 385 meters (1,260 feet). They reach a maximum length of 41 cm (16 inches). They were abundant in California waters until the 1970s when they virtually disappeared. Their populations have remained large and consistent in central and southern Baja California and in the Midriff Island area of the Sea of Cortez. They can be found up to 150 miles from shore and travel in schools that contain hundreds of thousands to millions of individuals. They migrate annually between feeding and spawning sites located at distances of 600 miles from each other. They are a mainstay of the diets of Heermann’s Gulls and Elegant Terns. Each year 500,000 Heermann’s Gulls and Elegant Terns gather for nesting on Isla Rasa in the Central Gulf and consume about 65 tons of these sardines every day.  They have lifespans of twelve to fifteen years

In Mexican waters the Pacific Sardine are found along both coasts of Baja and along the coast of the mainland as far south as Puerto Vallarta.

The Pacific Sardine is not easily confused with any other species.

In 2000, they were the number one commercial catch of Mexico with 460,000 tons collected. They are the major fish processed in the large fish processing plant in Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos where they are canned for human consumption.

Pacific Sardine, Sardinops sagax. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of Puerto Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, March 2006. Length: 10 cm (3.9 inches). Uncommon to the greater Los Cabos area.