Anchovy is a short-lived fish, generally living less then three years. It is to be found migrating through coastal waters in large shoals. Though it can be found as far north as Norway, and was once common in the Black Sea, it is now found mainly in the Mediterranean and off the Atlantic coast of Portugal, Spain and France. Average length at maturity is 13.5 cm, and the oldest specimens will grow to as much as 20cm.
The combination of a short life span and very variable recruitment, leads to violent fluctuations in stock size from year to year. Catches in EU waters have declined dramatically, falling from almost 85,000 tons in 1965 to less than 4,500 tons in 1982 and only 950 tons in 2005. Since 2005, the main EU anchovy fishery in the Bay of Biscay has been closed due to the extremely poor condition of the stock.
Most European anchovy are caught by pelagic trawlers, and the main fleets concerned are in north-west Spain and south-west France. The fishing season runs from 1 July to 30 June the following year.