Anchovy

The anchovies belong to the family Engraulidae. They belong to the same order as the herrings, order Clupeiformes. The anchovies are a schooling fish that are almost exclusively marine, except for some populations that migrate into or become landlocked in freshwater systems. The three species found in North American waters are the northern anchovy, the striped anchovy, and the silver anchovy. The northern anchovy is found off the Pacific Coast and the latter two are Atlantic species that are relatively rare in North America. The anchovies are typically found in temperate to tropical waters of Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. They are a small and silver fish that usually measure less than 15 cm, although they have been reported as large as 50 cm. They have characteristically silvery sides with greenish blue to gray backs and a bright strip along the midlateral flank. The anchovies have no lateral line.

The northern anchovy (Engraulis mordax mordax) is presently of commercial importance in California. Their distribution extends from Cape San Lucas in Baja California to the Queen Charlotte Islands off the British Columbia coast. The preferred temperature range seems to be between 14.5 and 18.5°C. Although there was a sufficient abundance of northern anchovy off the British Columbia coast in the 1940s, stocks have declined to a point that a viable fishery cannot be sustained there. Populations off the California coast have been increasing in the last 20 yr, where they are captured in schools with nets for the fresh, cured, or canned markets. They have also been caught for the bait and fish meal markets.

Evidence from California, shows that the mature anchovy may spawn several times each year. Spawning takes place at temperatures between about 13 and 17.5°C near the surface and at night. Several thousand eggs are broadcast and fertilized in the open waters. The eggs are ellipsoid and measure about 1.4 mm along the long axis and slightly less than 1 mm in diameter. As the embryo develops, it hangs upside down during development. At those temperatures, the eggs hatch in about two to four days and the alevins are 2.5-3 mm long. The warm waters also enhance the utilization of yolk, taking only about three days for the yolk sac to be absorbed. The young resemble the adults by the time they are about 25 mm long. They become sexually mature when they are about 13 cm. While about half of the two- to three-year-old fish will be mature, all at four years of age are sexually mature. They may live to be seven years old. Like other coastal fishes, the anchovies move to deeper waters during the winter and migrate toward the inshore during the summer. They also spend the daylight hours near the darker bottom and rise toward the surface at night.

The striped anchovy (Anchoa hepsetus) is particularly abundant from Chesapeake Bay to the West Indies and Uruguay. Only strays from those areas have ended up in the northern United States and Nova Scotia, Canada. The silver anchovy (Engraulis eurystole) is normally found in the Atlantic Ocean from Woods Hole, Mass. to Beaufort, N.C.

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