Cornish Sardines is the name given to the pelagic fish and its species name is sardine pilchardus. The fish are metallic green or olive coloured along the back with golden flanks and pearlescent silver shading to silvery-white on the belly. There are a series of dark spots long the upper flanks, sometimes with a second or third series below.
The fish are caught around the Cornish Coast but primarily in Mounts Bay and Mevagissey Bay with a fleet of vessels operating from the busy fishing ports of Newlyn and Mevagissey.
The sardines are brought aboard the vessels from the drift nets and ring nets used by the fleet. The size of vessel varies from 19 feet up to 30 feet. Smaller vessels use drift nets set each tide and hauled after a few hours. The fish are shaken out from the net and chilled in slush ice before being stored in fish boxes with ice.
The larger vessels use ring nets to surround part of a shoal and bring it alongside whilst a brail net is used to haul the fish aboard into large tanks of seawater and ice. The tanks are emptied on the quayside into larger insulated bins of seawater and ice for transport to local fish processors.
The fishermen record their catch and report to the Cornwall Sea Fisheries Committee. And historic returns show that the fishery has increased from just a few hundred tonnes in 1999 to 2000 tonnes in 2008.
Cornish Sardine Management Association has been responsible for increasing the overall production from this fishery by working to improve quality of the product and marketing with UK retailers. Have a look at the Where to Buy page on this website.
- Protecting the Name – the name “Cornish Sardine” is currently under appraisal by the European Commission to be protected by EU law. Click here for more information