Raitt's sand eel (Ammodytes marinus)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.Map Help



Ammodytes marinus is a thin and elongated sand eel with a pointed jaw. It can reach a maximum length of 25 cm. Its dorsal colouring is usually dark green, while the ventral and lateral colouring is silvery in colour. There is a single long dorsal fin, and the anal fin is half the length of the dorsal fin. The tail fin is small and distinctively forked. The lower jaw is distinctly longer than the upper jaw.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Widely distributed throughout the UK and Ireland.

Global distribution

Mainly the UK, Norway and Greenland. Throughout the Northeast Atlantic from 74°N (Novaya Zemlya and Bear Islands) to 49°N (Channel Islands, western English Channel), including eastern Greenland, Iceland, Barents Sea, and the Baltic.


Ammodytes marinus is a schooling benthopelagic species, which may congregate in large schools near the surface or bury itself in sand. It may be found both inshore and offshore.

Depth range

<150 m

Identifying features

  • Elongated body up to 25 cm in length.
  • Lower jaw projects beyond the upper jaw.
  • Pelvic fin is absent and tail fin is forked.
  • Lateral line is high on the body.
  • Scales absent from a median band forward of the dorsal fin and from the base of caudal fin.
  • Ventral scales are loosely aranged.

Additional information

Morphological discrimination of sand eel species can often be problematic, particularly for smaller, younger individuals but molecular methods have proven successful (Mitchell et al., 1997).

Traditionally Ammodytes marinus, like other sand eels, has been little exploited for human consumption but is a major target of industrial fishing for animal feed and fertilizer, particularly in the North Sea. Increasing fishing pressure may be causing problems for some of their natural predators, especially seabirds which prey on them in deeper water (Muus & Nielsen, 1999).


  1. Bergstad, O.A., Hoines, A.S. & Jorgensen, T., 2002. Growth of sandeel, Ammodytes marinus, in the northern North Sea and Norwegian coastal waters. Fisheries Research, 56, 9-23

  2. Bergstadt, O.A.; Hoines, A.S.; Kruger-Johnsen, E.M., 2001. Spawning time, age and size at maturity, and fecundity of sandeel, Ammodytes marinus, in the north-eastern North Sea and in unfished coastal waters off Norway. Aquatic Living Resources, 14(5), 293-301

  3. Christensen, A, Jensen, H., Mosegaard, H., St. John, M., Schrum, C., 2008. Sandeel (Ammodytes marinus) larval transport patterns in the North Sea from an individual-based hydrodynamic egg and larval model. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 65(7), 1498-1511

  4. Froese, R. & Pauly, D., 2007. Fishbase. A global information system on fishes. [On-line] http://www.fishbase.org, 2008-02-18

  5. Furness, R.W., Greenstreet, S.P.R. & Walsh, P.M., 1996. Spatial and temporal variability in the breeding success of seabirds around the British Isles: evidence for distinct sandeel stocks? ICES Cooperative Research Report, 216, 63-65.

  6. Gauld, J.A., 1990. Movements of lesser sandeels (Ammodytes marinus Raitt) tagged in the northwestern North Sea. Journal du Conseil, 46(3), 229-231

  7. Gauld, J.A., Hutcheon, J.R. 1990. Spawning and fecundity in the lesser sandeel, Ammodytes marinus Raitt, in the north-western North Sea. Journal of Fish Biology, 36(4), 611-613.

  8. Greenstreet, S.P.R., Armstrong, E., Mosegaard, H., Jensen, H., Gibb, I.M., Fraser, H.M., Scott, B.E., Holland, G.J. & Sharples, J., 2006. Variation in the abundance of sandeels Ammodytes marinus off southeast Scotland: an evaluation of area-closure fisheries management and stock abundance assessment methods. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 63(8), 1530-1550.

  9. Harris, M.P. & Wanless, S., 1997. Breeding success, diet, and brood neglect in the kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) over an 11-year period. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 54(4), 615-623.

  10. Holland, G.J., Greenstreet, S.P.R., Gibb, I.M., Fraser, H.M. & Robertson, M.R., 2005. Identifying sandeel Ammodytes marinus sediment habitat preferences in the marine environment. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 303, 269-282.

  11. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  12. ICES, 1999. Report of the ICES Advisory Committee on Fishery Management, 1999. Part 1. International Council for Exploration of the Sea Cooperative Research Report, 236 1-416.

  13. Jensen, H., Wright, P.J. & Munk, P., 2003. Vertical distribution of pre-settled sandeel (Ammodytes marinus) in the North Sea in relation to size and environmental variables. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 60(6), 1342-1351.

  14. Kunzlic, P.A., Gauld, J.A. & Hutcheon, J.R., 1986. Preliminary results of the Scottish sandeel tagging project. ICES Council Meeting Papers (Demersal Fish comm.) 1986/G:7, 1-6.

  15. Mitchell, A., McCarthy E. & Verspoor, E., 1997. Discrimination of the North Atlantic lesser sandeels Ammodytes marinus, A. tobianus, A. dubius and Gymnammodytes semisquamatus by mitochondrial DNA restriction fragment patterns. Fisheries Research, 36, 61-65

  16. Muus, B.J. & Nielsen, J.G. 1999. Sea Fish. Scandinavian Fishing Year Book. Hedehusene: Denmark

  17. Naevdal, G., Lahn-Johannessen, J., Reinert, J. & Thorkildsen, S., 1996. Population structure of Ammodytes marinus in the Northeast Atlantic. ICES Council Meeting Papers, G:23

  18. Picton, B.E. & Costello, M.J., 1998. BioMar biotope viewer: a guide to marine habitats, fauna and flora of Britain and Ireland. [CD-ROM] Environmental Sciences Unit, Trinity College, Dublin.

  19. Polyanski, Yu.I., 1955. Parasites of the fish of the Barent Sea. The Parasitology of Fish of Northern Marine Waters of the U.S.S.R. Monchadskii, A.S. (ed.). Transactions of the Zoological Institiute of the Academy of Science of the U.S.S.R., Vol. 19. Collection of works on Parasitology. Murmansk Biological Station and Zoological Institute of the Academy of Sciences, U.S.S.R. Translated from Russian. Isreal Program for Scientific Translations, Jerusalem, 1966. 

  20. Popp Madsen, K., 1957. A Danish fishery for sandeel (Ammodytidae). Annales Biologique. Copenhagen, 12, 101.

  21. Quinn, T. & Schneider, D.E., 1991. Respiration of the teleost fish Ammodytes hexapterus in relation to its burrowing behaviour. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology A, 98: 71-75.

  22. Reay, P.J., 1970. Synopsis of biological data on North Atlantic sandeels of the genus Ammodytes. Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN Report 82.

  23. Reeves, S., 1994. Seasonal and annual variation in catchability of sandeels at Shetland. ICES Council Meeting Papers D:19, 1-19.

  24. Scottish Government, 2010. Sandeels. [cited 23-8-2016]. Available from: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/marine/marine-environment/species/fish/sandeels

  25. Smigielski, A.S., Halavik, T.A., Buckley, L.J., Drew, S.M., Laurence, G.C., 1984. Spawning, embryo development and growth of the American sand lance Ammodytes americanus in the laboratory. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 14, 287-292

  26. Warburton, K., 1982. Sandeels - the elusive species. Scottish Fisheries Bulletin, 47, 22-26.

  27. Winslade, P.R., 1971. Behavioural and embryological investigations of the lesser sandeel, Ammodytes marinus Raitt. 93p. University East Anglia, Thesis,

  28. Wright, P.J. & Bailey, M.C., 1996. Timing of hatching in Ammodytes marinus from Shetland waters and its significance to early growth and survivorship. Marine Biology, 126(1), 143-152.

  29. Wright, P.J., Jensen, H. & Tuck, I., 2000. The influence of sediment type on the distribution of the lesser sandeel, Ammodytes marinus. Journal of Sea Research, 44, 243-256.

  30. Wright, P.J., Pedersen, S.A., Donald, L., Anderson, C., Lewy, P. & Proctor, R., 1998. The influence of physical factors on the distribution of Lesser Sandeels and its relevance to fishing pressure in the North Sea. ICES Council Meeting Papers AA:3.

  31. Yamashita, Y. & Aoyama, T., 1986. Starvation resistance of larvae of the Japanese sand eel Ammodyes personatus. Bulletin of the Japanese Society of Scientific Fisheries, 52, 635-639


  1. Environmental Records Information Centre North East, 2018. ERIC NE Combined dataset to 2017. Occurrence dataset: http://www.ericnortheast.org.ukl accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-38

  2. Isle of Wight Local Records Centre, 2017. IOW Natural History & Archaeological Society Marine Records. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/7axhcw accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27.

  3. Kent & Medway Biological Records Centre, 2017. Fish: Records for Kent.. Occurrence dataset https://doi.org/10.15468/kd1utk accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27.

  4. National Trust, 2017. National Trust Species Records. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/opc6g1 accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  5. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from: https://www.nbnatlas.org.

  6. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. www.iobis.org. Accessed: 2024-06-23


This review can be cited as:

Barnes, M.K.S. 2008. Ammodytes marinus Raitt's sand eel. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 23-06-2024]. Available from: https://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/59

Last Updated: 25/03/2008

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