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Sardine School

The story of the delicious BRUNSWICK® Sardines and Seafood Snacks that you enjoy begins in the cold waters of the North Atlantic ocean. Attention to detail at each stage of the process ensures that BRUNSWICK® products continue to meet the high standards that our consumers have come to expect. 


The Canadian and U.S. sardine canning industry is based on the juvenile North Atlantic herring. The North Atlantic herring is a small saltwater fish that is also known by its scientific name Clupea harengus.

 These fish travel in huge schools and live in the cold waters of the open ocean ranging from Greenland to North Carolina. North Atlantic herring can reach a size of about 40 cm (17 inches) in length, weigh as much as 0.7 kg (1.5 lbs), and can live as long as 20 years. Herring feed principally on plankton and are found in shallow inshore waters to offshore waters as deep as 200 meters. Herring schools are always in motion and migrate between spawning grounds, feeding grounds, and deep-water wintering areas.

The herring resource used by BRUNSWICK® is found off the northeast coast of North America, particularly from the Bay of Fundy between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Chedabucto Bay and the Outer Banks off the coast of Nova Scotia in Canada, and the Gulf of Maine and coasts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the United States. 

BRUNSWICK® is committed to ensuring that herring remains a healthy, sustainable and protected resource. We work with fishermen, government and other stakeholders to ensure that this precious resource will continue to be effectively managed. Click here to read about sardine sustainability.


-Click here to view our videos on sardine fishing & processing-




The herring fishery in eastern North America employs mid-water trawlers and purse seiners, referred to as mobile gear, and stationary fixed gear netting known as weirs. Generally, purse seiners and weirs are the favoured fishing methods in Canada, while mid-water trawlers account for a larger proportion of the U.S. catch.

Weirs are a traditional type of fishing equipment that has been used in the Bay of Fundy for hundreds of years. Weirs are strategically placed in coves or along shorelines frequented by schools of herring. They are constructed by driving wooden poles into the seabed in a semi-circular pattern and hanging netting to the poles to corral the herring. Once the herring enter the main holding area of the weir, they become trapped. The fish can be held live in this area until needed.
Once needed, the herring are pumped from the weir directly into a boat, chilled and then transported directly to the plant for processing.

The purse seine method of catching herring involves the use of larger vessels that seek out schools of herring using detection equipment such as sonar and echo sounders. Once located, the schools are encircled with a long and deep net, or seine, deployed from the vessel. When the net is fully deployed, or set, the net is pursed up by winching in a cable or rope attached to the bottom of the seine. The herring are then pumped aboard the vessel into fish holds equipped with refrigerated seawater or slush ice in order to maximize quality, and are transported to the canneries. Purse seiners are generally used for fishing in shallower waters and shoals.

 Mid-water trawlers locate and store herring in a manner similar to purse seiners, but catch the fish by pulling a funnel-shaped net, or trawl, behind the vessel as it passes over a school of fish. The trawl containing the trapped fish is then pulled beside the boat and fish are pumped on board and immediately chilled. Mid-water trawlers can fish effectively on shoals but are favoured for fishing in deeper waters.

Regardless of which method is used, BRUNSWICK’s rigorous quality standards ensure that only the best fish are selected. All the herring used in our products are maintained in chilled conditions to make certain that they taste as fresh as when they were taken from the sea.



BRUNSWICK® Sardines and Herring Snacks are carefully packed at our clean and modern packing facilities in Canada. We use a variety of sophisticated machinery and equipment, including robotics and computerized vision systems, in addition to hand packing to get the very best product from the sea, into the can, onto the store shelf and, finally, into your hands. Over the last 100 years,  BRUNSWICK® has custom engineered a number of processes.


The fish arrive at the plant either directly on the vessels, sardine carrier or by truck. They are then pumped into the plant using large vacuum pumps designed for handling fish. Once in the plant, fish are transported to the grading room, where they are graded for size and travel through the flume to holding tanks, where they are held in ice and brine. Smaller herring are used for   BRUNSWICK® Sardines, while larger herring are used for BRUNSWICK® Seafood Snacks. The salt water ice slurry refrigeration method insures that the fish are as fresh in the can as when they werecaught. The temperature is held around 40°F and quality control inspection continues every step of the process.


From the holding tanks, the fish are transferred to the various packing and cutting lines as required. Three types of packing lines are used to pack BRUNSWICK® Sardines: the traditional hand packing line, a semi-automatic packing line, and a fully-automated line. On the hand packing line, the packers use scissors to remove the head and tail and place the cut fish into the can. With both the semi-automatic packing line and fully-automated line, the fish are placed in pockets, the heads and tails are removed by machines and the cut fish are deposited in to cans. BRUNSWICK® Seafood Snacks are packed on a semi-automated line where deboned fillets are carefully placed in the can. The heads and tails are not wasted; they are processed into fish meal and oil that is used in a number of other industries.


Cans containing fish are placed onto racks. Full racks are loaded into carts, which are then placed into a pre-cooker which uses steam for cooking, reducing the moisture content and firming the fish. The carts are removed from the pre-cooker, tipped to drain the water from the cans and cooled.


The cooked cans are taken out of the racks and placed onto the seaming line where BRUNSWICK’S delicious sauces are added. The lid is placed on the can and hermetically sealed, conveyed to a can washer to ensure can cleanliness and then transferred to the retorts.


The retort is a high pressure vessel used for cooking and sterilization. The canned product is cooked in the retorts for 45 to 60 minutes, depending on the product, at a temperature of 240°F or greater. Upon completion the cans are removed, drained and cooled before handling. It is during the retort stage that the bones in the sardines, a great source of calcium for healthy bones and teeth, are softened.


The last step of the packing process is to put the cans into the final packaging. BRUNSWICK® products are then shipped to over 55 countries around the world.

Quality Assurance

BRUNSWICK® operates under rigorous quality and food safety standards at each stage of the process. In addition to working under a Quality Management Plan approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), BRUNSWICK® products also meet a Seafood HACCP plan approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is ultimately the consumer who is the final judge of quality, and BRUNSWICK® works hard to ensure a great taste experience with every can of BRUNSWICK®
Sardines. It is this commitment to quality that has built BRUNSWICK® into the world’s leading brand of sardines.


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