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Dried Beche-de-mer


What are Sardines?
Any of the numerous small edible herrings or related fishes belonging to the family Clupeidae. These fishes are frequently canned in oil or water, especially the pilchard of European waters. It particularly refers to the members of the genera Sardina, Sardinops, and Sardinella.

Sardines are small, silvery, elongated fishes with a single short dorsal fin, no lateral line, and no scales on the head. They range in length from about 15 to 30 cm (6 to 12 inches) and live in dense schools, migrating along the coast and feeding on plankton, of which they consume vast quantities. They spawn mainly in spring, with the eggs and, a few days later, the larvae drifting passively until they metamorphose into free-swimming fish.

Sardinia is where this diminutive fish was first enjoyed, thus it's name, sardine. Sardine occurs in the Mediterranean Sea and off the Atlantic coasts of Spain, Portugal, France, and Britain. Clupea harengus is found throughout the North Atlantic, including coastal North America. The five recognized species of the genus Sardinops are so similar that they are sometimes classified as the single species S. sagax. The five species are found in different areas of the Pacific and Indian oceans and are fished off of western North and South America, Japan, Australia, and South Africa. The five are as follows:-
  • Dussumeria
  • Escualosa
  • Sardina
  • Sardinella
  • Sardinops.

A Brief Background
The sardine fishery began as a result of the demand for non-perishable food during World War I. Tinned sardines became the basis for a substantial shore-side industry. Due to poor fishery management and global weather conditions the sardine industry totally collapsed in the early 1950's. On the verge of extinction, the sardine was place on an incidental catch only basis. Now, due to favorable ocean conditions and ironically, fishing pressure placed on the sardines’ chief oceanic competitor, the anchovy, the sardine could be poised for an explosive recovery.

Commercial Use of Sardines
Sardines of are commercially fished for a variety of uses: for bait; for fresh fish markets; for drying, salting, or smoking; and for reduction into fish meal or oil. The chief use of sardines is for human consumption, but fish meal made from sardines is used as animal feed, while sardine oil has many uses, including the manufacture of paint, varnish, linoleum, and, in Europe, margarine. European sardines, young herring, and Sardinops are those most often canned.

Fishing of Sardines
The most important catching apparatus is an encircling net, particularly the variety known as the purse seine. Many other modifications of encircling nets are used, including traps or weirs, the latter being stationary enclosures composed of stakes into which schools of sardines are diverted as they swim along the coast. The fish are caught mainly at night, when they rise to the surface to feed on plankton. After catching, the fish are submerged in brine while they are transported to shore.

Canning of Sardines

Sardines are canned in many different ways. At the cannery the fish are washed, their heads are removed, and the fish are cooked, either by deep-frying or by steam-cooking, after which they are

dried. In Spain, Portugal, and many other countries the fish are then packed in either olive or soybean oil, while in Scandinavian countries they may alternatively be smoked. They may also be packed in a tomato or mustard sauce.

Serving of Sardines
Sardines can be charcoal grilled, fried or baked in the oven. Smoking and pickling also produce delicious results. The natural sweetness of fresh sardines provide a wonderful counterpoint to sharply flavored ingredients such as mustard or bitter greens.

  • Baked Fresh Sardines Recipe
    • Ingredients
      • 900 g (2 Ib) sardines, cleaned and trimmed fat for greasing
      • 45 ml/3 tbsp olive oil
      • 2 large onions, finely chopped
      • 45 ml/3 tbsp medium-dry white wine
      • 225 g ( 8 oz)tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
      • salt and pepper
      • 3/4 cup (50 g) fresh white breadcrumbs
      • 2 tbsp (1 oz) 25 g butter
      • Watercress (salad cress) sprigs to garnish
  • Method
    • Grease a shallow ovenproof baking dish. Set the oven at 180°C/350°F/gas 4
    • Heat the oil in a small saucepan, add the onions and fry gently for about 5 minutes
    • Until lightly browned. Add the wine and boil until the volume is reduced by two thirds. Stir in the tomatoes, with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 3-4 minutes
    • Pour the tomato mixture into the prepared dish, arrange the sardines on top and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs. Dot with the butter and bake for 25 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with watercress.
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