Herring or sild

Clupea harengus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Pelagic trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — West of Scotland, West of Ireland
Stock detail

VIa, VIIb,c

Picture of Herring or sild

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

Scientists advise that there should be no fishing for herring in this area as the stock is depleted. Despite this advice, fishing continues for herring in this area. The SPSG West of Scotland fishery was certified as an environmentally responsible fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) in April 2012 but the certification is currently suspended.


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: 1 info

Stock Area

West of Scotland, West of Ireland

Stock information

In 2014 information was presented for the two stocks (Celtic Seas Division VIa (North) and Divisions VIa (South) and VIIb,c ) separately. From 2015 onwards information is presented by ICES for the two stocks assessed in combination, the first time since 1981 that combined advice has been given for these two stocks. Although separate stocks exist advice for them has been combined because it is not possible to segregate them in commercial catches or surveys.
ICES reports that the spawning stock biomass for the combined stocks has been declining since 2004 and is estimated to be below Blim. The fishing mortality (F) has been below FMSY since the late 1990s and was estimated to be at a record low in 2016. Recruitment (R) since 2013 has been at an all-time low.

ICES advises that when the MSY approach is applied, there should, as per advice given in 2016 and 2017, be zero catch in 2018. 6937 tonnes of herring caught in this area in 2016. ICES advises that a stock recovery plan be developed for this stock. ICES also advises, under precautionary considerations, 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: 1 info

There is no agreed management plan for the combined stocks. There was a management plan for herring in Division 6.a North; this plan is not considered by scientists as appropriate for the combined stocks. ICES advises that fishing should not proceed unless accompanied by a stock recovery plan. Such a plan should include rebuilding targets and time lines as well as protections for each stock. This would also imply including a research component to resolve the lack of information on stock mixing and recruitment.

Any increase in human activities such as the development of wind farms and extraction of sand and gravel impacts negatively on the spawning habitat of herring. Gravel seabed is essential for herring to lay their eggs and reproduce.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.25 info

Catches in this area are taken by domestic Scottish and Northern Irish trawl and purse seine fleets, pair trawlers and by international freezer-trawlers, many of which are Dutch owned. Human consumption herring fisheries are generally clean in relative terms and have little or no impact upon the seabed. Observer programmes have found that discarding of herring is very low in these areas. No cetacean bycatch has been observed in this fishery but there are occasional catches of seals. The minimum landing size for herring in EU waters is 20cm (18cm in Skagerrak/Kattegat), maturity is at around 17cm.


Groot, S. J. de (1979). The potential environmental impact of marine gravel extraction in the North Sea. Ocean Management, 5: 233-249.
Groot, S. J. de (1996). The physical impact of marine aggregate extraction in the North Sea. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 53: 1051-1053.
ICES (20170 http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2017/2017/her.27.6a7bc.pdf; https://www.msc.org/track-a-fishery/fisheries-in-the-program/certified/north-east-atlantic/scottish-pelagic-sustainability-group-ltd-atlanto-scandian-herring/fishery-name (Last accessed July 2017).