Wildlife Fact Sheets

Californian Anchovy (aka Northern Anchovy)

California Anchovy

Californian Anchovy (aka Northern Anchovy)

Engraulis mordax

  • Life Span
    Typically around four years, but the oldest lifespan recorded was seven
  • Habitat
    You can find me and my buddies in large schools along coastal waters.
  • Range
    In the Pacific Ocean from British Columbia to Baja California
  • Preferred Food
    I’m a filter feeder who likes to eat different types of plankton.


Don’t let my small size fool you—I play a BIG role in the ocean. I’m what’s known as a baitfish or forage fish, meaning I’m a favorite meal of large, predatory fish. I’m a crucial link in the ocean food web. I snack on small plankton, then in turn provide energy for bigger fish, birds and mammals. A lot of species depend on me—the breeding success of California brown pelicans and terns depends on healthy populations of anchovies!

I’m an important part of the fishing industry, too. Not only do people eat us, but we’re also used for bait and pet food. Scientists are concerned with keeping enough of us baitfish in the ocean to sustain our predators and fishermen. All the while I’m also impacted by climate-change effects like water temperature changes.  

Did You Know?

If you ever see me “yawning,” it’s because I’m hungry! I open my mouth wide to catch tiny phytoplankton and zooplankton from the water to eat.

Status and Conservation

Just because I’m an important food source doesn’t mean I want to become someone’s lunch. In order to avoid being caught, you can find me (although I hope that you won’t) swimming in massive schools with my buddies, sometimes numbering in the thousands. With all of us moving at once, it makes it harder for a predator to focus on just one.

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