Sardine spawning off the European Atlantic coast: Characterization of and spatio-temporal variability in spawning habitat

M. Bernal, Y. Stratoudakis, S. Coombs, M. M. Angelico, A. Lago de Lanzos, C. Porteiro, Y. Sagarminaga, M. Santos, A. Uriarte, E. Cunha, L. Valdes, D. Borchers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Citations (Scopus)


Data on the occurrence of sardine (Sardina pilchardus) eggs from 42 national ichthyoplankton surveys along the European Atlantic coast were collated in order to describe the spawning habitat and spawning distribution of sardine in recent decades (1985-2005). A modification of existing spawning habitat characterisation techniques and a newly developed method to compare the probability of egg presence across surveys carried out with different sampling gears were used. Results showed that sardine spawning off the Atlantic European coast is mainly restricted to the shelf area, with the main geographical range being between the Strait of Gibraltar (the southern limit of data available for this analysis) and the middle part of the Armorican shelf (latitude around 47.5 degrees North), and along a temperature range of 12-17 degrees C. Spawning grounds within these limits show a nearly continuous geographical distribution, covering a large proportion of the shelf of the Iberian peninsula and adjacent waters, except for: (1) a persistent gap at the north west corner of the Iberian peninsula, (2) a small secondary break at the Spanish-French border in the inner part of the Bay of Biscay and (3) at the south west corner of the peninsula where there is a narrowing of the shelf width. These discontinuities were used to separate spawning into four nuclei and to describe the changes in spawning distribution in the time series. The relative importance of each nucleus and the degree of separation between adjacent nuclei varies between years, with the exception of the permanent gap at the northwest corner of the Iberian peninsula, which is persistent throughout the time series. Year to year changes in the proportion of the potential spawning habitat in which spawning actually occurred, changing from around 60% before the mid 1990s to around 40% thereafter, and did not show any relationship with spawning stock biomass. Evolution of potential habitat occupation over the Armorican shelf shows larger variability than that observed in the Iberian peninsula, with percentages of occupation ranging from around 30% up to nearly 80% of the shelf in recent years (within the limitations of the relatively sparse data for this region). (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-227
Number of pages18
JournalProgress in Oceanography
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2007


  • sardine
  • egg distribution
  • spawning grounds
  • ichthyoplankton
  • North East Atlantic
  • Iberian peninsula
  • Armorican shelf
  • FISH


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