The general distribution of S. pilchardus has been described by Furnestin (1952). In the CECAF area, the species occurs from the Strait of Gibraltar to south of Cape Blanc in Mauritania, with the greatest concentration in waters with depths between 25 and 80 m. According to Marec (unpublished), sardines have been caught by tuna bait boats in small quantities off Senegal during 1974 and 1975 in the cold season. Freon and Stequert (1978) have described the occurrence of young sardines in 1976 and 1977 even during the warm season (water temperature between 25 and 28° C) in the Bay of Goree (Senegal, 14° 43 N). Within this area, the distribution is not uniform and fishing is concentrated in three main areas, due either to differences in fish densities or in fishability of the grounds. Thus, the 1976 meeting of the CECAF Working Party on Resource Evaluation distinguished three major zones: Zone A from Gibraltar to south of Agadir, Zone B from Ifni to 27° N latitude, and the third, Zone C, from Cape Bogador to south of Cape Barbas (Fig. 1).
Zone A is fished nearly exclusively by the Moroccan fleet. The main age groups caught in this area are one to three years old, and fishing is mainly between March and October. Zone B is exploited mainly by the Spanish fleet based at the Canary Islands, with catches containing predominantly two to four year old fish and a main fishing season from June till February, with very strong increases in catch rates in about November. Zone C is fished mainly by Polish and other fleets. In this area the Polish catches consist mainly of two to four year old fish (fishes of 17-22 cm being the most abundant), with the fishing season extending throughout the whole year.
Little information is available on the sardine found north of Casablanca, around the Canary Islands and in area 34.3.1.