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Herring or sild

Clupea harengus

Method of production - Caught at sea
Capture method - Pelagic trawl
Capture area - North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area - Norwegian (spring-spawning)
Stock detail - I, II and V
Certification - Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
Fish type - Oily fish

Sustainability rating Click for explaination of rating

This fish, caught by the methods and in the area listed above, is not the most sustainable choice of fish to eat. Click on the rating icon above to read more and on the alternatives tab below to find more sustainable fish to eat.

Sustainability overview

The stock is declining , and now below recommended precautionary levels. Fishing pressure is at sustainable levels and the stock is harvested sustainably. The stock is managed by a joint plan, which takes into account the 'straddling' nature of this stock (the fact that the herring cross and are fished through international boundaries during their migration), and it is in line with the precautionary approach. The fishing methods are relatively clean, although there is little information on bycatch, it is thought to be small in most fisheries. The fishery was certified as an environmentally responsible fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) in 2009.


Herring belongs to the same family of fish (clupeids) as sprat and pilchard. It can grow to greater than 40 cm, although size differs between races (distinct breeding stocks). Most herring landed are around 25 cm. Herring are sexually mature at between 3-9 years (depending on stock) and populations include both spring and autumn spawners. At least one population in UK waters spawns in any one month of the year. Herring have an important role in the marine ecosystem, as a transformer of plankton at the bottom of the food chain to higher trophic or feeding levels, e.g. for cod, seabirds and marine mammals. It is also considered to have a major impact on other fish stocks as prey and predator and is itself prey for seabirds and marine mammals in the North Sea and other areas. Herring spawning and nursery areas are sensitive to anthropogenic or human influences such as sand and gravel extraction.

Stock information

Stock area
Norwegian (spring-spawning)

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Stock information
Norwegian spring-spawning herring is a widely migratory or straddling stock. The feeding grounds of the adults are in the Norwegian Sea. Spawning takes place in late winter and early spring along the Norwegian coast. The stock is declining and estimated to be below the precautionary biological limit (Bpa) in 2014. It is however being fished at a sustainable level and now at a level below that recommended by the Management Plan. Scientists advise that catches in 2016 should be no more than 316,876 tonnes (283,013 t in 2015). The fishery was certified as an environmentally responsible fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) in 2009.


This widely distributed and migratory or straddling stock is managed under a joint long-term plan agreed by the EU, Norway, Iceland, Faroe Island and Russia in 1999. The plan aims to constrain harvesting within safe biological limits and is designed to provide sustainable fisheries in the long-term. The plan is evaluated by ICES as being consistent with the precautionary approach.

Capture information

The fishery moves with the herring, following the migration from the Norwegian winter grounds to the feeding grounds of international, Icelandic, EU and Norwegian waters in summer. The fishery is entirely pelagic and has no impact upon the seabed. There is little information on its impacts on the ecosystem specifically but pelagic herring fisheries for human consumption are relatively clean in terms of bycatch, although the gears used have been associated with cetacean and seal bycatch. Discards are considered to be negligible, but some slippage (i.e. the net is slipped or the cod end opened in the water before being taken on board) is known to occur. The minimum landing size for herring in EU waters is 20cm (18cm in Skagerrak/Kattegat), maturity is at around 17cm.

Read more about capture methods

ICES Advice 2015, Book 9;

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