- Atlantic herring
- Latin Name:
- Clupea harengus harengus
- Group Name:
- North Atlantic Ocean
- Fishing Gear:
- Purse seines, tuck-ring seines, fixed gear, midwater trawls, weirs and gillnets
- Mainly spring and summer
Species at a Glance
Atlantic herring are one of the most abundant fish species on earth, living in the open ocean and gathering in large schools. The species migrate for feeding, spawning, and over-wintering purposes and are found on both sides of the Atlantic.
Herring are fished for both food and bait, and the catch may be exported smoked, fresh, frozen, marinated/pickled/cured, and canned as “sardines” or for their roe. Products from Canada’s herring fishery are destined for markets in Japan, the United States, and the Dominican Republic. One of the most valuable herring products is roe for the Japanese market.
- 126,102 tonnes in 2013, 113,990 tonnes in 2012, 134,301 tonnes in 2011 and 149,900 tonnes in 2010.
- Landed value of $46.2 million in 2013, $44.3 million in 2012, $38.4 million in 2011 and $40.3 million in 2010.
- Abundance status and trends:
- Herring abundance is estimated using acoustic surveys where available. There are a number of herring stocks that DFO tracks. The spawning stock biomass estimates in the different stocks range from critical, cautious to healthy.
- Eight main fisheries: Scotia-Fundy (NAFO Divisions 4VWX) in four fishing areas; southern Gulf of St. Lawrence (NAFO Division 4T) spring and fall spawner components; and off the west coast (NAFO Division 4R) and east coast (NAFO Divisions 3KLPs) of Newfoundland spring and fall components.
- Conservation measures:
- Tailored to the unique needs of each fishery; measures include quotas, season and area closure during spawning period, enhanced monitoring, and more.
Herring are small silvery fish which feed primarily on phytoplankton, zooplankton, and small fish and larvae. The species swim with their mouths open to filter the plankton as they move through the water. Adults stay in the deeper waters during the day and come to the surface to feed at night.
Herring are known as a forage species because they are the prey of larger fish as well as marine mammals, such as harbour porpoises, dolphins, whales, and sharks. Herring may grow up to about 44 centimeters in length and weigh up to 750 grams.
The time and place of spawning depends on the stock. Some stocks spawn in the spring, (spring spawners) while others spawn in late summer or fall, and are called fall spawners.
Canada’s Atlantic herring fishery is commercially important in the areas where the main fisheries are located: off southwest Nova Scotia and the Bay of Fundy (Figure 1); the southern Gulf of St Lawrence (Figure 2); and the east and west coasts of Newfoundland (Figure 3). Efforts have also been made for some years to develop a fishery on Quebec’s Lower North Shore (NAFO Division 4S).
Herring landings on the west coast of Newfoundland have been rising since 1999 (Figure 4). In 2011, landings were 20,501 t compared to 19,205 t in 2010. Combined landings of all herring stocks fished in the Atlantic Ocean are shown in Figure 5.
Herring Fishing Areas:
The herring fishery is managed through Integrated Fisheries Management Plans, which identify quota allocations, fishing seasons and areas, as well as the tools used to control and monitor fishing activities, licensing, and regulation.
Specific management measures are also in place in some herring fishing areas to provide protection to the different stock components. For example, all licenced herring fish harvesters operating mobile gear vessels and fixed gear are required to provide detailed logbook records of catch and fishing activity. In addition, the commercial landings are verified at the port as part of the Dockside Monitoring Program.
Herring Landings – Historical View:
DFO scientists, external experts, and fish harvesters regularly review herring stock assessments and the results are published on the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat website. DFO assesses 8 main fisheries of herring in eastern Canada.
The population abundance of the four southwest Nova Scotia herring stocks in 4VWX has declined since 2001. The stock has not rebuilt despite reduced catch levels in recent years.
The Gulf of St. Lawrence herring stock (4T) is composed of two components, fall spawners and spring spawners. The abundance of the population of fall spawners remains at a moderate level. The abundance of the population of spring spawners has been declining since 1997 and remains at a low level.
On the west coast of Newfoundland (4R), herring biomass estimates for 2010 and 2011 are higher than those from 2002.
On the east coast of Newfoundland (3KLPs) the status of the fall spawners has improved.
There are signs that the stock is increasing for herring in the Quebec Lower North Shore (4S).
In addition to reviewing herring landing data, various methods of research and assessment are used to estimate abundance, spawning biomass, and fishing mortality. These methods include:
- acoustic surveys;
- analytical assessments;
- catch rates from fishery data;
- size, weight, condition, and maturity of fish caught, as well as age; and
- bycatches in other fisheries.
- DFO: Canadian Commercial Fisheries Data (2011): Values and Quantities
- DFO: Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat: Research on Atlantic herring for the west coast of Newfoundland (NAFO 4R) in 2011
- DFO: Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat: Research on Atlantic herring on Quebec’s North Shore (NAFO 4S) in 2010
- DFO: Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat: Herring fishery information and Atlantic herring market (2008) (PDF 256.4 KB)
- DFO: Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat: Herring fishing areas 13 and 14 (NAFO 4R) and 2J3KLPs herring
- DFO: Sustainable Fisheries Framework policies
- Fisheries Resource Conservation Council: Fishing into the Future – the Herring Fishery of Eastern Canada (2009)
- DFO Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat: 2011 Assessment of 4VWX Herring
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