European anchovy

European anchovy

name = European anchovy

image_caption =
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Actinopterygii
ordo = Clupeiformes
familia = Engraulidae
genus = "Engraulis"
species = "E. encrasicolus"
binomial = "Engraulis encrasicolus"
binomial_authority = Linnaeus, 1758

The European anchovy ("Engraulis encrasicolus") is a fish somewhat related to the herring. Anchovies are placed in the family Engraulidae.

It is easily distinguished by its deeply-cleft mouth, the angle of the gape being behind the eyes. The pointed snout extends beyond the lower jaw. The fish resembles a sprat in having a forked tail and a single dorsal fin, but the body is round and slender. The maximum length is 8 1/8 in (205 mm).


European anchovies are abundant in the Mediterranean and formerly also the Black and Azov seas (see below). They are regularly caught on the coasts of Greece, Sicily, Turkey, Bulgaria, Russia, Ukraine, Italy, France and Spain. The range of the species also extends along the Atlantic coast of Europe to the south of Norway. In winter it is common off Devon and Cornwall (United Kingdom), but has not hitherto been caught in such numbers as to be of commercial importance.

Zuider Zee and English Channel

Formerly they were caught in large numbers off the coast of the Netherlands in summer when they entered the Wadden Sea and Zuider Zee. After the closing of the Zuider Zee they were still found in the Wadden Sea until the 1960s. They were also caught in the estuary of the Scheldt.

There is reason to believe that the anchovies found at the western end of the English Channel in November and December are those which annually migrated from the Zuider Zee and Scheldt in autumn, returning thither in the following spring; they were assumed to form an isolated stock, for none come up from the south in summer to occupy the English Channel, though the species is resident on the coast of Portugal.

The explanation appears to be that the shallow and landlocked waters of the Zuider Zee, as well as the sea on the Dutch coast, become raised to a higher temperature in summer than any part of the sea about the British coasts, and that therefore anchovies were able to spawn and maintain their numbers in these waters.

Their reproduction and development were first described by a Dutch naturalist from observations made on the shores of the Zuider Zee. Spawning takes place in June and July, and the eggs, like those of the majority of marine fishes, are buoyant and transparent, but they are peculiar in having an elongated, sausage-like shape, instead of being globular. They resemble those of the sprat and pilchard in having a segmented yolk and there is no oil globule.

The larva hatch two or three days after the fertilization of the egg, and are minute and transparent. In August young specimens 1½ to 3½ in (40 to 90 mm) in length have been taken in the Zuider Zee, and these must derived from the spawning of the previous summer.

There is no evidence to decide the question whether all the young anchovies as well as the adults leave the Zuider Zee in autumn, but, considering the winter temperature there, it is probable that they do. The eggs have also been obtained from the Bay of Naples, and near Marseilles, also off the coast of Holland, and once at least off the coast of Lancashire.

The occurrence of anchovies in the English Channel has been carefully studied at the laboratory of the Marine Biological Association at Plymouth. They were most abundant in 1889 and 1890. In the former year considerable numbers were taken off Dover in drift nets of small mesh used for the capture of sprats. In the following December large numbers were taken together with sprats at Torquay. In November 1890 a thousand of the fish were obtained in two days from the pilchard boats fishing near Plymouth; these were caught near the Eddystone.

Black and Azov seas

In areas around Black sea the European ahnchovy is called "hamsie" in Romanian, "hamsi" in Turkish, "hapsi" in Pontic dialect of Turkish, "hapsia" in Pontic Greek, Hapchia in Laz [ Özhan Öztürk. Karadeniz Ansiklopedik Sözlük. 2005. pp. 486-488 ] "хамсия" ("hamsiya") in Bulgarian, and "хамса" ("hamsa") in Russian. Black sea adult anchovy can reach lengths of around 12-15 cm. In summer hamsi migrates north to shallow waters, while in winter it moves to deep. During migration the fish moves in huge swarms, where gulls and dolphins are actively chasing them. A variety of hamsi feeds and breeds during summer in the Azov sea, and moves to Black sea for the winter passing the Strait of Kerch.

The population was severely depleted in the 1980s by the invasive comb jelly "Mnemiopsis leidyi" which eats the eggs and young, but has since stabilized again albeit at a much lower level.

Hamsi makes considerable part of fishing and fish processing industries, either canned or frozen. In Turkey, it is the staple food of the local Black sea cuisine [ [ Black Sea Region cuisine of Turkey] ] . Hamsi is widely used from pan dishes to baked goods, even as a desert. In Bulgaria hamsiya is traditionally fried and served in cheap fast-food restaurants along the shore, typically with beer. Since 1990s the dominant position of fried hamsiya is reduced but it is still quite popular.



* (2007): "Mnemiopsis leidyi" in the Baltic Sea – distribution and overwintering between autumn 2006 and spring 2007. "Aquatic Invasions" 2(2): 137-145.

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