The European Pilchard is a fish that is only called a ‘pilchard’ after its first year when it has reached adulthood and before that it is actually called a ‘sardine’. It can be found in the open sea near the south and south-west coast of England, particularly around Cornwall.
The European Pilchard is a small slim fish that can grow around thirty-five centimetres long. It has a small smooth-looking fin on its back which is known as the ‘dorsal’ fin. It also has a forked tail fin. Its body is mainly a blue-silver colour with a blue-green upper part. European Pilchards swim close to the surface of the water in large groups called ‘schools’.
The word ‘sardine’ can also be used to describe about twenty types of shoal fish, like pilchards, herrings and sprats. These fish look very similar in appearance and size and swim together in mixed shoals. When these shoals are caught, they are processed as food altogether and put into tins under the well-known name ‘sardines’.