Sardines Dakhla


The Product

General Name: Sardines Dakhla


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






The fishers

The Morocco sardine catch is divided between two classes of vessels: a coastal fleet of 650+ medium-sized vessels using small purse seine nets which fish from different ports and a much smaller fleet of boats which supply local markets. New bigger trawler vessels are also been used in Laayoune, Western Sahara. Fish4Ever is supplied by the purse seine boats. These are registered in a port, are given an allocated catch that is controlled on landing and then sold onto to canners or directly to freezer companies. 4 Purse seiners supplied these sardines: F/V El Majd, F/V Loubane 2, F/V Zaaim 1, F/V Louize.

FAO Area: FAO 34 1.31

Port: Dakhla

Authority: Moroccan Ministry of Fisheries

Seasonal information: not a seasonal fishery

The Method

Small Purse Seine Nets

Fish harvesters encircle a large wall of netting around schools of sardines (or other small pelagics) and pull the bottom of the netting closed, like a drawstring purse, to capture the fish. Purse seine boats will often have a rowing boat sized skiff with an outboard engine that is sent out to form and close the circle.  Sardine purse seiners leave their home harbour in the evening to return at dawn as sardines are fished at night when they are feeding closer to the surface.

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:

Moroccan sardines are caught all along the Atlantic Coast from Safi/Essaouria down to Mauritania. The bulk of the fishing is presently caught from Agadir down towards Laayoun in the Western Sahara and even further south.


Eco-ratings/certifications: Friends of the Sea

Resource Management: The Moroccan sardine fishery is along the Atlantic Coast of Morocco within the Morccan economic sea zone and so managed by Morocco. The fishery is currently participating in a Fishery Improvement Project coordinated by the Morocco Ministry of Agriculture and Maritime Fisheries.

Local Management: Moroccan Ministry of Fisheries

Monitoring & Traceability: Logbooks, licensed boats, fish checked and landed into Port authorities.

Conservation Measures: A number of regulations are in place to address conservation, including: licensing of vessels including fishing zone, fishing method, target species; limitations on bycatch and total catch volumes; authorized landing ports; time and season closures and requirement for logbooks.

By-catch/discard: The purse seine net set on small pelagics is a highly targeted which sets on dense schools of fish swimming close to the surface. This is quite different to tuna purse seine nets which are far larger, often using helicopters on board the boats and with nets as big as a football pitch that also use a FAD (fish aggregating device) that attract a wide range of marine life.

Endangered Species: Limited interaction with negligible impact.

Eco-system damage: Sardines are pelagic fish swimming together in large schoals: there is no damage to the sea bottom and limited interaction with other species.

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: Moroccan sardine boats are owned by a large number of different owners and the fishery supports local fishers and jobs in the port and processing facilities. The factory is a family canning business several generations old. Production is well managed, controlled by local authorities for phyto-sanitary and hygiene issues and involved a lot of careful hand-work. Each lott 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 fishermen represented by Unions and paid a share of the catch that is decided differently in different ports according to tradition. The fishery is closely managed by the Moroccan fisheries authorities. Ownership of the boats and processing is in local hands as is the right to exploint the resource. The factory is a small family owned business based in Galicia with highly regulated (EU) labour standards.

Political factors: Western Sahara has got contested status much like the West Bank in Israel. The majority of current inhabitants and the whole of the fisheries industry in the Western Sahara is Moroccan. The political question is: is this an occupation or a settlement?! The EU-Morocco treaty on trade relations has recognised this contested status as well as the fact that a political process is in place to try and reconcile the opposing viewpoints.