European Anchovy

European Anchovy
European Anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus) – Oceana –

Worth knowing about the European Anchovy


The European Anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus) belongs to the kingdom of animals, more specifically to the tribe Chordata. Here they are again subdivided into the class Actinopterygii, order of Clupeiformes, the family of Clupeidae, the subfamily of Engraudilae, genus Engraulis, and the species Engraulis encrasicolus.

This animal was first described in 1758 by Carl Linnaeus (a Swedish botanist, zoologist, taxonomist, and physician). He is known as the “father of modern taxonomy”.

European Anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus): Synonyms

Anchoviella guineensis, Anchoa guineensis, Clupea encrasicolus, Engraulis amara, Engraulis argyrophanus, Engraulis capensis, Engraulis encrasicolis, Engraulis encrasicholus, Engraulis encrassicolus, Engraulis engrasicholus, Engraulis engrasicolus, Engraulus encrasicholus, Engraulis encrasicholus ponticus, Engraulis encrasicolus russoi, , Engraulis guineensis, Engraulis japonica, Engraulis japonicus, Engraulis meletta, Engraulis russoi, Engraulis vulgaris.

The European Anchovy has congeners such as the herring (Clupea harengus), the sprat (Sprattus sprattus), and the sardine (Sardina pilchardus).

Australian Herring
Australian Herring (Arripis georgianus), also known as tommy ruff.
Sprat (Sprattus sprattus) – Sprat from the Southern North Sea – by Hans Hillewaert –
Sardine (Sardina pilchardus) – by Roberto Pillon –

Interesting facts

What many do not know is that in the past there lived bizarre marine fish that were related to the anchovy. They were up to a meter in size and had tusks. This was revealed in a study by the “New Scientist”, called “Royal Society Open Science”. According to scientists, this would be a failed experiment of nature.


  • The European Anchovy can grow up to 20 cm, but the average length is 13.5 cm. It should be noted that the specimens that live in the southern areas are considerably smaller than their fellows that swim in other regions.
  • The oldest animal to be examined was 5 years old (yet most don’t get older than 3 years).
  • This fish species is related to the herring, but they are much slimmer. In cross-section, you could say that they are spindle-shaped and oval.
  • They have a pointed snout with their beaks extending to behind the eyes.
  • These anchovies have only a single dorsal fin (slightly behind the middle of the back). That one fin is characteristic of the herring family. The other fins also have a typical sharp, angular shape.
  • Also particularly characteristic is their forked caudal fin.
  • The only thing that makes them unique in the family is that they have a shorter lower jaw than the clearly protruding upper jaw.
  • The fish has small, sharp teeth in both jaws.
  • Their color also makes them special: a greenish-blue metallic sheen on the back, silver on the belly, and a gray-blue band in between. This produces beautiful reflections.

International names

  • Albania: Açuga, Gavroja, Inçuni
  • Algeria: Anchois, Antchouba, Antchova, Bocorone, Lanchoi, Menchouba
  • Angola: Biqueirão
  • Azores Is.: Anchovy, European anchovy
  • Bulgaria: Hamsia
  • Canary Is.: Anchoa, Boquerón, Longorón
  • Cape Verde: Biqueira, Biqueiraõ, Boca-torta, Boqueiraõ, Chacareu, Enchova
  • China: 南非鯷, 欧洲鳀, 歐洲鯷
  • Croatia: Brgljun, Inćok, Inćun, Kurcilj, Minćun
  • Czechia: Ančovička, Anšovička, Anšovka obecná, Sardel ka, Sardel obecná, Sardelka obecná, Sardelle, Sardinka
  • Denmark: Ansjos, Europæisk ansjos
  • Egypt: Anshouga, Anshuga
  • Estonia: Anšoovis, European anšoovis, European anchovy
  • Faeroe Is.: Ansjós
  • Finland: Sardelli
  • France: Amplovo, Anchiuva, Anchois, Anchois commun, Anchois de l’Afrique australe, Anchois européen
  • Germany: Anchovis, Europäische Sardelle, Sardelle
  • Ghana: Bornu
  • Greece: Antjúga, Gavros, Gíavros, Γάβρος, Γαύρος, Χαψί
  • Iceland: Ansjósa
  • Italy: Acciuga, Acciuga di Faro, Aguzza, Alaisc, Alaisce, Alece, Aliccia, Alice, Alice ‘e sperone, Alice anure, Alicia, Allievi, Amaredda, Anchio’, Ancidda, Ancina, Ancioia, Ancioja, Anciojarina, Anciova, Anciua, Anciue, Anciuin, Ancivu, Bagigi, Cincinelli janculilli, Corinedda, Gianchetti, Gianchetu d’anciua, Lice, Masculina, Masculinu ‘mperiali, Mieze alicia, Nudini, Nunnata, Paase, Paasette, Sardon
  • Japan: Katakuchiiwashi
  • Latvia: Anšovs
  • Lebanon: Bh’aytyrah, Rykoû
  • Lithuania: Anšiuvis
  • Malta: Incova, Nemusa, Nemusa rasha morra
  • Mauritania: Anchoa, Anchois, Anchovy, Boqueron, Youssou nokoum
  • Montenegro: Minćun
  • Namibia: Anchovy, Ansjovis
  • Netherlands: Ansjovis
  • Norway: Ansjos
  • Poland: Sardela
  • Portugal: Anchova, Biqueirao, Biqueirão, Enchova
  • Romania: Hamsia
  • Russia: Black Sea Anchovy, Hamsa, Khamsa, Анчоус европейский
  • Senegal: Galadakh, Pankan muntali, Youssou nokoum
  • Serbia: Brgljun, Incun, Minćun
  • Slovenia: Sardon
  • Spain: Anchoa, Anchoa de Africa austral, Anchoa europea, Anxova, Bocareu, Boqueron, Boquerón, European anchovy, Seitó
  • Syria: European anchovy, Om hanak
  • Togo: Abobi, Anchois
  • Turkey: Hamsi, Hamsi balığı
  • UK: Anchovy, European anchovy, South African anchovy, Southern anchovy
  • UK Engld Wal: Brwyniad
  • Ukraine: Khamsa

Photos of the European Anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus)

Dried Philippine Anchovies
Anchovies – Dried Philippine Anchovies – Encrasicholina oligobranchus. Commonly known in Bisaya and Hiligaynon as “Bolinaw”. Other possible common names include “silag”, “dilis”, “nipis”, and “twakang” – by Obsidian Soul –
Japanese Anchovy
Japanese Anchovy (Engraulis japonicus)

Where can you find the European Anchovy?

  • Eastern Atlantic: Bergen, Norway to East London, South Africa (perhaps reaching Durban)
  • The whole Mediterranean
  • Black sea
  • Azov sea
  • The Western Indian Ocean
  • Only a few also occur in the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Suez.

  • 14 species of anchovies have been found in North American waters. There are about 150 species all over the world.
  • The European Anchovies swim in large schools and in close proximity to the coastal areas (they do this, especially in the warmer months and the breeding season).
  • Only a few shoals also swim around in the further south areas. These are fish that have a higher tolerance for salinity and can easily adapt.
  • In the summer they move from the south to the north where they swim on the surface.
  • In winter they do the opposite: they swim from north to south and in the deeper water layers.
  • They also like to be close to the water’s surface, but there are still animals that go down to 200 meters (especially in winter).
  • The seas and oceans are their favorite places, but brackish areas also occur (mainly during the spawning season). In South America, there are even animals that live in the freshwater.

Countries where they live

  • Europe: Albania, Belgium, Bosnia Herzegov., Bulgaria, Channel Is., Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK, Uk Engld Wal, Uk No Ireld, UK Scotland, Ukraine
  • Asia: Cyprus, Georgia, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey
  • Africa: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Canary Is., Congo, Congo Dem Rp, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Eq Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Libya, Madeira Is., Mauritania, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Sao Tome Princ., Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, St Helena, Togo, Tunisia, West Sahara

European Anchovy: Their nutrition

These fish mainly eat zooplankton throughout their lives. But small shrimps, wing snails (sea butterflies), and copepods are also on the menu…

Shrimp – P. Kadiakensis in a freshwater aquarium – by Wesley Malherek – Own work
Wing snail
Wing snail (sea butterfly) – Sea butterfly pseudoconch (12286).jpg – Wikimedia Commons
Copepod – Wikimedia – Wikimedia Commons

How do these animals mate?

The European Anchovy breeds in the warmer periods from April to November (as long as the temperature remains pleasant). The female can spawn multiple times, laying a total of 13,000 to 20,000 eggs.

Since very large schools are formed, there are subpopulations that move to various spawning areas. Some even spawn in freshwater. Their spawning grounds shift over time.

The eggs are ellipsoidal to oval and in the first 24-65 hours they float around like plankton. The hatched larvae grow very quickly and after a year already reach a length of 9-10 cm. However, there are many of those larvae that do not survive.

The females are larger than the males and they spawn for the first time when they reach a length of 9-10 cm. The sex ratio is 45% female and 55%, male.

European Anchovy in the human diet

This fish is often confused with sardine, but anchovies are smaller and contain much more flavor. It is therefore sad that this fish ends up on a pizza because one can make delicious fish dishes with it. They are mainly used in Mediterranean cuisine (for flavoring dishes) and many enthusiasts find them really a small taste bomb. Flavoring fish or soy sauces are also made from it.

Sardine, on the other hand, is only eaten as fish.

The anchovy is considered a fatty fish and is consumed all over the world. Some people eat them raw, but they are also sold in oil, smoked, frozen, salted, deep-fried, canned, and made into fishmeal and fish oil. The small bones pose no problem at all when preparing and consuming.

When eating it, light leaf salad or fresh white bread is usually served with some fresh lemon juice (for the enthusiasts).

It is a fish that is easy to keep and therefore they are also traded over long distances. As a result, the fish is also very important commercially.

The European Anchovy is used by the fishermen as bait.

Recipe: Winter carrot quiche with European Anchovy

Winter carrot quiche
Winter carrot quiche with anchovies

Ingredients for 4 persons:

  • 1 sheet of puff pastry
  • 4 eggs
  • 200 ml (vegetable) cream
  • 4 carrots
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 can of anchovies
  • pepper and salt
  • paprika powder


  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
  2. Peel the carrots, cut them in half and then into strips. Fill a cooking pot with a little water. Cook the carrot strips over a medium heat for about 8 minutes.
  3. Peel the onion and cut into rings. Drain the can of anchovies.
  4. Beat the eggs in a bowl and add the cream. Beat again and season with salt, pepper and paprika.
  5. Spread the puff pastry over a round springform pan or tart pan. Poke holes in it.
  6. Pour the egg-cream mixture onto the puff pastry. Divide the onion rings and anchovy fillets over it. Finally, spread the carrot strips on top. Slide into the oven for 35 minutes. Then let it cool slightly and eat it lukewarm.

How do you fish for European Anchovy?

Anchovies are usually caught using purse seines, fish traps or pelagic trawls. These methods lead to damage to other vulnerable species.

Purse seine fishing
Purse seine fishing – by vickip2 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Fish Trap
Fish Trap
Pelagic trawl
Pelagic trawl – “fish2861” by NOAA Photo Library is licensed under CC BY 2.0

However, there is too little information about most anchovy fisheries and there is therefore insufficient data on the possible bycatch of endangered or protected species.

Enemies of the European Anchovy

Enemies of this animal include striped bass, halibut, bluefish, sharks, salmon, and other fish… Seabirds are also notorious predators for the European Anchovy.

Striped bass
Striped bass – “striped bass at Maritime Aquarium” by Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
Halibut – “Halibut Fishing Trip17” by michaelfranks6 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Shark – “shark” by hodgers is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Bluefish – “Bluefish” by OaklandNative is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
Chinook salmon
Chinook salmon – “chinook salmon” by USFWS Pacific Southwest Region is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Cormorants – “Cormorant Quartet” by Charles Patrick Ewing is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Endangered Species?

Because the anchovies are very numerous and reproduce quickly, one cannot speak of an endangered species.


This is where I come to the end of this article. I hope you found it interesting and of course, any questions, additional information, comments, ambiguities, or untruths can always be left behind. Thanks in advance!

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