The Product

General Name: Sardines – de Arousa


Alternative names: Pilchard, sardine commune (fr), sardinia europea (sp).

The fishers

In the Rias of Galicia, Northern Spain, when sardines appear in summer, tiny fishing boats, comparable to a rowing boat go out into the estuaries and set small gillnets for about an hour and then haul it aboard with their catch of sardines. The sardines are picked from the net one by one. Fish harvesters bring their catches to the local auction each morning. This method is called the Xeito method, 122 boats are authorised by the local fishing authorities. Our production is located directly on the Rio de Arousa and we offer a floor price for the fish to ensure that the fishermen earn enough to make a living. Our sardine gillnet is a very passive low fuel low impact method.

FAO Area: FAO 27 8.c

Port: Villanova de Arousa

Authority: Ministry of Fisheries, Galicia.

Seasonal Information: fishery openings – Jun 01 – Oct 31

The Method

Gillnetting as a method varies in it’s sustainability impact depending on where and how it is deployed. A gillnet basically catches a fish by the gill which means it will allow smaller fish and juveniles of the species to slip through and in the case of the latter reproduce or not be discarded. Gillnets can be set as semi permanent nets, they can vary in size quite considerably, be left for long periods of time OR they can be small and deployed during a short catch period and hauled in regularly. In some artisan tuna fisheries for example gillnets can have a high by-catch impact on dolphins and porpoises and are poorly regulated. In the traditional sardine fisheries of Northern Spain or in the Alaskan salmon fisheries gillnets are used as a highly targeted and controlled method. Driftnets are a form of gillnet which can be very destructive as they are left to drift on the oceans to catch what comes and picked up weeks later – with some nets been lost and continuing to entrap sea life.

The Species

The European sardine breeds at 20 to 25 metres below sea level and ranges from the shoreline up to100 km out to sea and is found off the Coasts of Cornwall, Brittany, the Iberian peninsula in the Mediterranean and in large numbes off the coast of North-West Africa. There are many different types of sardines which all form part of the herring family, Clupeidae, and can be described as “sardine”: Sardina pilchardus, the European sardine, is said to be the best. European sardine feeds mainly on planktonic crustaceans, but also larger organisms. These fish form in large schools at depths between 25 to 100 metres during the day, rising to 10 to 35 metres at night. Sardines are normally fished at night when they come up to the surface to feed on plankton.

The Location:


Eco-ratings/certifications: PescadeRías – Certified

Resource Management: The fishery is managed by the local government in line with EU regulations. ICES provides science advice to a number of governments and regional fisheries management organisations inlcuding the EU.

Local Management: The fishery is managed by the government of the autonomous region of Galicia in Spain. Local fishermen are organised in Cofradia (Fishermen guilds) which represent the sector and obtain fishing rights and organise the collective exploitation of the resource.

Monitoring & Traceability: In Spain no landing is allowed outside of government controlled auction houses where fish catch details are logged and tracked. Each boat is licensed and controlled as to catch quantities by the fishing authorities working on site. This is an extremely coastal fishery within eye distance of the shore.

Conservation Measures: A number of controls address conservation in the sardine gillnet fishery. These include: monthly and annual catch limits, a restricted number of licenses; restrictions on landing small fish and minimum mesh sizez on nets; seasonal closures for conservation purposes; minimum mesh sizes on nets; and the strict monitoring and recording of catch at local government auctions called “Lonxa”.

By-catch/discard: There are a number of different Cetacean species, sharks and birds present in Galician waters. Interaction in the inlet fishing area is far lower than in offshore fishing grounds. Common dolphins are caught in trawls but largely unaffected by both the purse seine sardine fishery and the gillnet sardine fishery. Mesh size regulations ensure small fish are not caught and discarded.

Endangered Species: No risk to endangered species.

Eco-system damage: This is a pelagic capture method so the sea bottom is not affected.

How is it made?

The factory is based in Ria de Arousa on the Galician coast between Vigo and Santiago de Compostela with a front directly onto the harbour.

Production: The production supports local fishers and employs local people in the cannery. It’s a family business across generations. Production is well managed, controlled by local authorities for phyto-sanitary and hygiene issues and involved a lot of careful hand-work. Each lot is tracked as to the fish origins and that of any additional ingredient. Fish4Ever only uses certified organic ingredients: this means the factory is controlled and inspected and only natural processes and ingredients are allowed.

Social Factors: No issues. This is a democratic and egalitarian small scale local fishery with the locally caught fish packed by a local factory with highly regulated labour standards.

Political Factors: No issues