Australian Sardine, Sardinops sagax (Jenyns 1842)

Other Names: Australian Pilchard, Bloater, Blue Bait, Blue Pilchard, Bluebait, Blue-bait, Mulie, Mulies, Picton Herring, Pilchard, Sardine, Smig, South American Pilchard, Westralian Pilchard

An Australian Sardine, Sardinops sagax. Source: Rudie Kuiter / Aquatic Photographiccs. License: All rights reserved

A steely-blue sardine above, with silvery sides and ventral surface, a longitudinal row of evenly spaced small dark blue spots along the blue and silver interface, and fine black spots on the outer margins of the dorsal and caudal fins.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2021, Sardinops sagax in Fishes of Australia, accessed 25 May 2024,

Australian Sardine, Sardinops sagax (Jenyns 1842)

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Off Fraser Island, Queensland, around southern Australia to Kalbarri, Western Australia, including Tasmania. Elsewhere the species is widespread in anti-tropical waters with five geographically isolated subpopulations. 
The species is pelagic and forms Forms large schools in coastal waters often appearing at the surface during summer months, but staying well submerged during winter.


Dorsal fin 17-20; Anal fin 16-20; Caudal fin 19; Pectoral fin 17-18; Pelvic fin 8-9.  
Body shallow (18-21% SL), elongate, almost oval in cross section, tapering gradually to slender caudal peduncle.  Head small (25-27% SL), eyes of moderate size (23-29% HL); well developed transparent adipose tissue adjacent eye covering half of snout laterally and area just behind eye; mouth small (upper jaw length 40-43% HL), oblique, maxillae broad, reaching to below anterior half of eye; teeth absent.  
Scales moderately small, cycloid, weakly attached, covering body but absent from head; 44-50 oblique scale rows on sides, those on underside of body compressed into very low ridge with weak scutes, not compressed into ridge on back; lateral line absent.  
Dorsal fin with short base located centrally on back, anterior rays much longer than posterior rays; anal fin moderately low and short, located near caudal fin, last two rays elongate; caudal fin deeply forked. Pectoral fins of moderate size, located on ventral profile of body behind head; pelvic fins small, arising beneath centre of dorsal fin; pectoral and pelvics with fleshy axillary tissue, not scales.


Congregates in large schools and feeds by sieving plankton from the water with the numerous elongate gill rakers.  


A highly commercial species throughout much of its range, supporting some of the largest global fisheries. These are also very important food fishes for many large marine predators, and are taken commercially for use as bait. 


The specific name is from the Latin sagax (=  acute, sharp, of quick perception).

Species Citation

Clupea sagax Jenyns 1842, Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle: 134. Type locality: Lima, San Lorenzo Island, Peru.


Bray, D.J. 2021


Atlas of Living Australia

Australian Sardine, Sardinops sagax (Jenyns 1842)


Fletcher, W.J. 1990. A synopsis of the biology and exploitation of the Australasian pilchard, Sardinops neopilchardus (Steindachner). Part I: Biology. Fisheries Department of Western Australia, Fisheries Research Report 88, 45 pp.

Fletcher, W.J. 1991. A synopsis of the biology and the exploitation of the Australasian pilchard, Sardinops neopilchardus (Steindachner). Part II: History of stock assessment and exploitation. Fisheries Department of Western Australia, Fisheries Research Report 91, 55 pp.

Gaughan, D.J. 2002. Disease-translocation across geographic boundaries must be recognized as a risk even in the absence of disease identification: the case with Australian Sardinops. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 11: 113-123.

Gaughan, D., Di Dario, F. & Hata, H. 2018. Sardinops sagax (errata version published in 2019). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T183347A143831586. Accessed on 15 December 2021.

Gomon, M.F. 1994. Families Halosauridae, Notacanthidae, Clupeidae, Engraulidae, Gonorynchidae, Plotosidae, Salmonidae. pp. 215-231 figs 192-206 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs. (as Sardinops neopilchardus)

Grant, E.M. 2002. Guide to Fishes. Redcliffe : EM Grant Pty Ltd 880 pp.

Hall, D.N. & MacDonald, C.M. 1986. Commercial fishery situation report: net and line fisheries of Port Phillip Bay Victoria, 1914-1984. Victoria Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands, Fisheries Division, Marine Fisheries Report 10, 121 pp.

Hoschke, A., Whisson, G. & Moore, G.I. 2019. Complete list of fishes from Rottnest Island. pp. 150-161 in Whisson, G. & Hoschke, A. (eds). The Rottnest Island fish book. 2nd ed. Perth : Aqua Research and Monitoring Services.

Izzo, C., Gillanders, B.M. & Ward, T.M. 2012. Movement patterns and stock structure of Australian sardine (Sardinops sagax) of South Australia and the East Coast : implications for future stock assessment and management. In: Final report to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation. FRDC Project No. 2009/021. SARDI publication no. F2011/000478-7. SARDI research report series no. 611., 102 pp. West Beach: SARDI Aquatic Sciences.

Jenyns, L. 1842. Part 4 Fishes. pp. 97-172 pls 21-29 in Darwin, C. (ed.). The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle under the command of Captain Fitzroy, R.N. during the years 1832 to 1836. London : Smith, Elder & Co. 

Johnson, J.W. 1999. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 43(2): 709-762

Kailola, P.J., Williams, M.J., Stewart, P.C., Reichelt, R.E., McNee, A. & Grieve, C. 1993. Australian Fisheries Resources. Canberra : Bureau of Resource Sciences and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation 422 pp. 

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp. 

May, J.L. & Maxwell, J.G.H. 1986. Field Guide to Trawl Fish from Temperate Waters of Australia. Hobart : CSIRO Division of Marine Research 492 pp.

Munroe, T.A., Wongratana, T. & Nizinski, M.S. 1999. Family Clupeidae. pp. 1775-1821 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 3 pp. 1397-2068.

Neira, F., Sporcic, M.I. & Longmore, A. 1999. Biology and fishery of pilchard, Sardinops sagax (Clupeidae), within a large south-eastern Australian bay. Marine and Freshwater Research 50(1): 43-55.

Parrish, R.H., Serra, R. & Grant, W.S. 1989. The monotypic sardine, Sardina and Sardinops: Their taxonomy, distribution, stock structure, and zoogeography. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 46(11): 2019-2036

Roughley, T.C. 1957. Fish and Fisheries of Australia. Sydney : Angus & Robertson 341 pp. 

Steindachner, F. 1879. Über einige neue und seltene Fischarten aus den zoologischen Museen zu Wien, Stuttgart und Warschau. Anzeiger der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien 16(4): 29-34 (described as Clupea neopilchardus from Hobsons Bay, Victoria)

Steindachner, F. 1879. Über einige neue und seltene Fischarten aus den k.k. Zoologischen Museen zu Wien, Stuttgart und Warschau. I. Zur Fischfauna von süd-Australien. Denkschriften der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien 41(2): 1–15 figs 1–9

Stevens, J.D., Hausfeld, H.F. & Davenport, S.R. 1984. Observations on the biology, distribution and abundance of Trachurus declivis, Sardinops neopilchardus and Scomber australasicus in the Great Australian Bight. CSIRO Marine laboratories Report No. 164, 27 pp.

Stewart, A.L. & Struthers, C.D. 2015. 50 Family Clupeidae. pp. 301-304 in Roberts, C.D., Stewart, A.L. & Struthers, C.D. (eds). The Fishes of New Zealand. Wellington : Te Papa Press Vol. 2 pp. 1-576.

Ward, T. M., Smart, J. & Ivey, A. 2017. Stock assessment of Australia Sardine (Sardinops sagax) off South Australia 2017. Report to PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture . South Australian Research and Devlopment Institute (Aquatic Sciences). SARDI Publication No. F2007/000765-6. SARDI Research Report Series No. 971, Adelaide.

Whitehead, P.J.P. 1970. The clupeoid fishes described by Steindachner. Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) Zoology 20(1): 1-46 

Whitehead, P.J.P. 1985. FAO species catalog. Clupeoid fishes of the world (suborder Clupeoidei). Part 1 — Chirocentridae, Clupeidae and Pristigasteridae. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 125 Vol. 7 Pt 1. pp. 1-303 

Yearsley, G.K., Last, P.R. & Ward, R.D. (eds) 1999. Australian Seafood Handbook. Hobart : CSIRO Marine Research 460 pp.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37085002

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:0-200 m

Habitat:Pelagic, coastal waters

Max Size:30 cm TL

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CAAB distribution map