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 — 6.a, 7.b-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 on-wards 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 (SSB) for the combined stocks has been declining since 2004 and is estimated to have been below Blim since 2013. The fishing mortality (F) has been below FMSY since the late 1990s. Recruitment (R) has been at unprecedented low levels since 2013.
ICES assesses that fishing pressure on the stock is below FMSY, Fpa, and Flim, and that spawning stock size is below MSY Btrigger, Bpa, and Blim.
ICES advises that when the ICES MSY approach is applied, there should, as per advice given since 2016, be zero catch in 2019. ICES recommend that a stock recovery plan is implemented for these combined stocks.


Criterion score: 1 info

There is a proposed rebuilding plan for these combined stocks that has not yet been evaluated by ICES. 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. The fishing industry, in conjunction with the Pelagic Advisory Council (PelAC), initiated a major genetic research programme in 2016 that aimed to provide new stock separation information.

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.


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


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).