Herring or sild

Clupea harengus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Pelagic trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Iceland
Stock detail — 5a
Picture of Herring or sild

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

The stock size has declined because of high natural mortality caused by an Ichthyophonus infection and poor recruitment, and is currently below the required level. Fishing mortality (F) is currently at an appropriate level.


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: 0.75 info

Stock Area


Stock information

Strong year classes in 1999-2002 led to an increase in the spawning-stock biomass (SSB), reaching the highest estimated levels in the late 2000s. SSB has declined since then because of high natural mortality caused by an Ichthyophonus infection (2009-2011 and 2017) and poor recruitment. The harvest rate increased after being at low levels at the beginning of the Ichthyophonus outbreak but is currently near the management target of 0.15.

ICES advises that when the Iceland management plan is applied, catches in the fishing year 2018/2019 should be no more than 35 186 tonnes (38, 12 tonnes 2017/2018; 63 000 t in 2016/17; 71,000 t in 2015/2016; 83,000 t in 2014/2015; 87,000 t in 2013/14; 67,000 t in 2012/2013)


Criterion score: 0.25 info

The Icelandic Government is in the process of formally adopting a management plan for Icelandic summer spawning herring. The plan is based on a harvest control rule which has been evaluated by ICES and is considered to be precautionary, conforms with the ICES MSY framework and to maintaining a long-term high sustainable yield. Given the current observation of Ichthyophonus infection in 2017, it is expected that additional mortality will most likely affect the stock dynamics in the short term.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.25 info

The Icelandic TACs for herring apply from 1 September to 1 May the following year. The catch is normally taken from September to February. All of the catch is landed. In 2016 all landings (60,403 t) were made by pelagic trawlers. Discards are banned in Icelandic waters and the fishery has little or no impact on the seabed. The minimum landing size for herring in EU waters is 20cm (18cm in Skagerrak/Kattegat) ( Herring mature 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
Trout, Rainbow
Tuna, albacore
Tuna, bigeye
Tuna, skipjack
Tuna, yellowfin


ICES 2018. ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort Greenland Sea and Icelandic Waters Ecoregions her.27.5a. Published 13 June 2018 http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/her.27.5a.pdf (Accessed June 2018);
ICES Advice 2017 http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2017/2017/her.27.5a.pdf;