Colloquial names: Pillie, sardine, sprat (misidentification)
Almost entirely imported as bait in New Zealand, due to the extremely oily nature of the flesh. But this is the same fish that is eaten with gusto in Europe and South America. Average size 10-20cm.
Only relatively recently identified as a separate species, the NZ pilchard is a small (up to 25cm), short-lived, but relatively fast growing fish found in mid to surface coastal waters.
It is widely distributed around New Zealand, but found in heavy concentrations in sheltered bays such as the Hauraki Gulf and Tasman Bay, sometimes in mixed schools with sprat and anchovy.
Pilchards are mainly targeted throughout the year by purse seiners, but also beach seine and lampara nets.
In 1995 some populations were severely impacted by a natural mass mortality, thought to have been caused by a virus. Jointly with anchovy and sprats, pilchard has the highest ecological ranking of any New Zealand commercial fishery and is therefore one of the best fish choices.
Common Miss-spellings: pillchard, pilchar, pilly