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DID YOU KNOW? The breeding success of California brown pelicans and elegant terns is strongly correlated with anchovy abundance.
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Engraulis mordax, from the Greek engraulis (European anchovy) and Latin mordax (biting).
COMMON NAMES: California anchovy, pinhead, anchoa, anchoveta, and bay anchova.
DESCRIPTION: Small compressed fish with long snouts that overhang a large mouth. Bluish-green above and silvery below; adults have a faint silver stripe on the side. Up to 9 inches in length.
LIFECYCLE: The northern anchovy spawns throughout the year depending on the region; usually within 100 km of the coast near the surface. Anchovies are abundant in bays and estuaries in the spring, summer and fall. While anchovies move along the shore and offshore, they do not migrate extensively.
RANGE: In North America, the northern anchovy occurs from the Gulf of California, Mexico to Queen Charlotte Islands in Canada.
HABITAT AND ECOLOGY: Estuaries and bays provide important habitat for the northern anchovy, which spends significant time in these habitats. Primarily feeding on planktonic crustaceans and fish larvae, the northern anchovy in turn is an important food source for many species of fish, including California halibut, rock fish, yellow tail tuna, shark, chinook, and coho salmon. It is also important prey for marine mammals and birds. For example, the breeding success of California brown pelicans and elegant terns is strongly correlated with anchovy abundance.
Threats to wetlands such as poor forestry and agricultural management practices, urban development and channel diversion structures can negatively impact anchovies because wetlands help buffer estuaries from pollution and siltation. In addition, wetlands provide rich feeding grounds and protection from predators.
ECONOMIC VALUE: Following the collapse of the Pacific sardine fishery in the 1940's, fishermen initiated a commercial fishery for the northern anchovy that has developed into a multi-million dollar fishery. It is fished commercially from San Francisco, California to British Columbia. The northern anchovy is also the most important bait fish for marine recreational fisheries off of southern California, and is used as bait for sturgeon, salmon, and other fish in Washington and Oregon.