Herring or sild

Clupea harengus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Pelagic trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — North Sea, Skaggerak and Kattegat, Eastern English Channel
Stock detail

IV, IIIa, VIId (autumn spawners)


Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

Picture of Herring or sild

Sustainability rating one info

Sustainability overview

The stock is well managed and management consistent with the precautionary approach. ICES classifies the stock as being at full reproductive capacity and as being harvested appropriately. Herring is an important prey species for seabirds, marine mammals and other fish. It is also an important predator for some species such as cod. There are a number of fisheries for herring in this area certified as environmentally responsible fisheries by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Choose herring from these fisheries as the most sustainable choice.


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

Criterion score: 0 info

Stock Area

North Sea, Skaggerak and Kattegat, Eastern English Channel

Stock information

ICES classifies the stock as having full reproductive capacity and as being harvested appropriately, below management plan and MSY fishing mortality targets.
Spawning-stock biomass (SSB) fluctuated between 1.1 and 2.3 million tonnes from 1997 to 2016, in all years above Bpa. Fishing mortality (F) has been below FMSY since 1996. Since 2003, recruitment (R) has been low despite the large size of the stock. However, the 2014 recruitment was strong and has contributed to the increase in the spawning stock.
ICES advises that when the European Union (EU)-Norway management strategy is applied, catches in 2018 should be no more than 517,891 tonnes (458, 926 tonnes in 2017; 555,086t in 2016; 461,664 t in 2015; 482,477 t in 2014; 480 200 t in 2013) and that activities that have an impact on the spawning habitat of herring should not occur, unless the effects of these activities have been assessed and shown not to be detrimental.


Criterion score: 0 info

There is a management plan agreed by the EU and Norway for this stock. Measures to improve the exploitation pattern and reduce discards include technical measures to improve selectivity of fishing gears and closed seasons. The plan has proven an effective tool in maintaining sustainable exploitation and conserving North Sea herring. There are a number of fisheries for herring in this area certified as environmentally responsible fisheries by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The causes of low recruitment for this stock have not yet been quantified but there are concerns that spawning substrate and nursery areas are being disturbed by activities such as extraction of marine aggregates (such as sand and gravel) and other activities (e.g. construction and offshore windfarm development) that have an impact on the sea bed and may therefore be expected to impact on herring spawning.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.25 info

The fishery in the North Sea for human consumption is considered clean in terms of bycatch and discards, relative to other prominent fisheries in the area such as bottom trawling, with little or no impact upon the seabed. However, herring from the western Baltic spring stock is caught with the autumn North Sea stock. Purse seine and pelagic trawls can be associated with bycatch of marine mammals but observer data states that this is likely to be low. North Sea herring is caught for human consumption and as a bycatch in industrial fisheries. The minimum landing size for herring in EU waters is 20cm (18cm in Skagerrak/Kattegat), maturity is at around 17cm.


ICES Advice 2017 http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2017/2017/her.27.3a47d.pdf