This wonderful fish should be a marketing case study in schools around the country. These fish have been landed around the Cornish coast for hundreds of years. Traditionally they have been sold as pilchards and I don't know about you but we used to feed pilchards to our cat when I was a boy!
More recently they have had a re-branding and are now offered as the super-cool and sexy sardine - needless to say they are increasing in popularity again.
The truth is sardines and pilchards are, as their Latin name suggests, one and the same. If you want to be a little technical then the difference is one of size. Up to 15 cm they are sardines and over 16 cm they become pilchards.
Whatever the name this is a fishery that is infact a great success story. In the past they were over-exploited with the fish being one of Cornwall most important exports. It was not only eaten, but used in a huge range of products including: soaps,dyes and lubricants. When the Great Western Railway started, direct access to national and international markets began and greed led to the species being massively over-fished.
More recently the stocks have recovered and it is now a lovely sustainable fishery once again.
Sardines are a pelagic shoaling fish, and a migratory species that move around large areas hunting out the zooplankton they feed on. They often feature as a ball of fish desperately trying to survive onslaughts from the sea and the air - usually with little success against relentless predators. Having said that because of the huge numbers they travel in not all face this fate and in fact they can grow up to 25 cm long and live for up to 15 years - no mean feat in our opinion!