Herring or sild

Clupea harengus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Drift net
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — North Sea, Skaggerak and Kattegat, Eastern English Channel
Stock detail — IV, IIIa, VIId (autumn spawners)
Certification — 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 assesses that fishing pressure on the stock is below FMSY, Fpa and Flim; and spawning stock size is above MSY Btrigger, Bpa, and Blim.

Spawning-stock biomass (SSB) fluctuated between 1.5 and 2.6 million tonnes between 1998 and 2017, and in all years it was above MSY Btrigger. Fishing mortality (F) has been below FMSY since 1996. Even though the size of the stock has been large, the recruitment (R) has been relatively low since 2002, with the two lowest year classes falling within the recent four of the last 30 years.

ICES advises that when the MSY approach is applied, catches in 2019 should be no more than 311 572 tonnes (517,891 tonnes in 2018; 458, 926 tonnes in 2017; 555,086t in 2016; 461,664 t in 2015; 482,477 t in 2014; 480 200 t in 2013).


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 minimum landing size for herring in EU waters is 20cm (18cm in Skagerrak/Kattegat), maturity is at around 17cm.


Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 2 and below are included as an alternative in the list below. Click on a name to show the sustainable options available.

Anchovy, anchovies
Arctic char
Herring or sild
Salmon, Atlantic (Farmed)
Salmon, Chinook, King Salmon
Salmon, Chum, Keta, Calico or Dog salmon
Salmon, Coho , Silver, White
Salmon, Pink, Spring , humpback
Salmon, Sockeye , Red Salmon, Bluebacks, Redfish
Sprat, whitebait
Trout, Rainbow
Tuna, albacore
Tuna, bigeye
Tuna, skipjack
Tuna, yellowfin


ICES (2018). ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort. Greater North Sea Ecoregion her.27.3a47d Published 31 May 2018http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/her.27.3a47d.pdf (Accessed June 2018)
ICES Advice 2017 http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2017/2017/her.27.3a47d.pdf