Whole European Sprat [family Clupeidae (herring family); Genus Sprattus]

Sprats are small schooling fish similar to, and closely related to, Sardines, but a bit smaller and different enough to have their own genus and be called "Sprats". By far the most economically important sprat is the European (see below) but it is not the only one. There is also a a commercially fished sprat (Falkland Sprat; S. fuegensis) off the southern coast of Argentina and around the Falkland Islands. There is also a commercially fished Sprat off the coast of Tasmania, Australia (Australian Sprat; S. novaehollandiae). There are two all around the coasts of New Zealand (New Zealand Sprat; S. muelleri and New Zealand Blueback Sprat; S. antipodum) but these are not fished commercially, only in subsistence fisheries.   Photo from Muséum National D'Histoire Naturelle distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International.

More on Varieties of Fish (very large page).

European Sprat   -   [Brisling, Bristling, Skipper; Sprattus sprattus]
Whole European Sprat 01e

This is the most economically important sprat. They are found in great quantity in the in the North Sea and Baltic Sea, and all around the British Isles and the North and Northwest coasts of France. They are less common along the west costs of Spain and Morocco, but are fairly common in the Black Sea, though that fishery has seriously declined. This fish can grow to 6-1/4 inches long, but is commonly about 4-3/4 inches. The photo specimen was 4-1/3 inches long. The Sprat fishery is particularly important to Latvia, but also Estonia, Lithuania and Poland.

European Sprats, Smoked and Canned This is the form in which most people know Sprats. They are smoked, beheaded (to fit in the can better) and packed in 4 inch diameter by 1 inch high cans with sunflower seed oil and salt. These are enjoyed by persons of taste, but are definitely not for the baby spinach set. They go exceptionally well with ice cold vodka and strong Russian tea. Fortunately plenty are now exported to North America, particularly from Latvia, and I keep a good stock. They should be eaten within about 4 years, because the cans eventually start to leak.

European Sprats, Canned as Sardines This form of European Sprats is usually sold as "Brisling Sardines", though they are of a different genus from the fish usually identified as "Sardines". This name differentiates these Sardine style Sprats from the heavily smoked fish widely known as "Sprats".

Health and Nutrition

Sprats are very high in Omega 3 fatty acids, which are currently thought to be very beneficial for cardiovascular, mental and neural health. At least as high as Atlantic Salmon. They are also high in other minerals and vitamins.

Smoked Sprats are very high in purine content, so are are best avoided by people with gout or high uric acid in their blood.

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