Herring or sild

Clupea harengus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Pelagic trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Celtic Sea, Irish Sea (South), southwest of Ireland
Stock detail — 7a South, 7g, 7h, 7j, 7k
Picture of Herring or sild

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

Updated: July 2019.

Default red rating: The stock size is very low, and fishing pressure is too high. Recent recruitment of young fish into the stock has been low, and average weight has been declining, which is a cause for concern. There is a management plan for this stock, although it is no longer considered precautionary, and so a rebuilding plan is being developed. As well as catch limits, management includes closed areas that have reduced fishing mortality. There is little concern for bycatch or habitat impacts by this method. Scientific advice is to avoid negative impacts on the spawning habitat of herring, unless the effects of these activities have been assessed and shown not to be detrimental to the stock. There has been an increase in marine anthropogenic activity, especially in the area of marine renewables. The construction and development of wind farms, for example, results in disturbance to the seabed, as does aggregate extraction. Gravel is an essential habitat for spawning herring. As the stock is below Blim (the level at which the stock’s ability to reproduce may be impaired) and there is no precautionary recovery plan in place, this rating receives a Critical Fail.

Biology

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: Default red rating info

Stock Area

Celtic Sea, Irish Sea (South), southwest of Ireland

Stock information

The stock size is very low, and fishing pressure is too high. Recent recruitment of young fish into the stock has been low, and average weight has been declining, which is a cause for concern.

The spawning-stock biomass (SSB) has decreased significantly since 2011, and has been below Blim (34,000 tonnes) since 2017. In 2018 it was 22,977t and is projected to be a similar level in 2019. The fishing mortality (F) has increased since 2008 and was above Flim (0.45) in 2016 and 2017, but decreased to 0.33 in 2018; it remains above FMSY (0.26). Recruitment has been below average since 2013.

ICES advises that when the MSY approach is applied, there should be zero catch in 2020. This is because there are no catch scenarios that will rebuild the stock above Blim by 2021.

For this autumn-spawning stock, the SSB is determined at spawning time and is influenced by fisheries between 1 April and spawning (October).

Herring stocks are surveyed using acoustic surveys, but as they have been observed close to the sea bed in recent years this may not be the most reliable way to estimate, and it makes the stock assessment more uncertain. Mixing occurs between Celtic Sea and Irish Sea fish, but the level of mixing is unknown. Division 7h is part of the management area, but it is unclear if it is part of the stock area.

The decline in mean weight in the catch and stock at spawning time are a cause for concern, because of their impact on yield and yield-per-recruit

Management

There is a management plan for this stock, although it is not precautionary, and so a rebuilding plan is being developed. As well as catch limits, management includes closed areas that have reduced fishing mortality.

The long-term management strategy for Celtic Sea herring that was proposed by the Pelagic Advisory Council in 2011 was re-evaluated by ICES in 2018. ICES advised that the harvest control rule was no longer consistent with the precautionary approach: there is a greater than 5% probability of the stock falling below Blim. A rebuilding plan is currently being developed for this stock.

In general, catch limits (TACs) have been set lower than the scientific advice, except in 2018 when advice was for 5,445t and TAC was 10,100t. Total catches, including discards, have been below the advice in every year since 2010, except in 2015 when catch was 18% above the advice. Discards have been very low, and in 2018 were 0 tonnes. The stock has been covered by the landings obligation since 2015.

Irish quota is allocated to vessels on a weekly basis. The large number of vessels involved has led to individual quotas being reduced. This initially led to increased discarding risk due to vessels being unable to catch their small allocations without extra-quota catches that are often slipped (meaning fish are allowed to swim out of nets after being caught). However, in 2012, flexibility was introduced to the system, whereby a vessel could use some of the following week’s quota to mitigate slippage.

The southern Irish Sea, division 7a South, has been closed to most fishing vessels since 2007, except small, dry-hold vessels, up to 50 feet in length. It was intended to protect first-time spawners and has a maximum quota allocation of 11%. It does appear to have reduced fishing mortality.

It is known that juvenile Celtic Sea herring mix with the Irish Sea stock, which could have impacts for management and advice.

Scientific advice is to avoid negative impacts on the spawning habitat of herring, unless the effects of these activities have been assessed and shown not to be detrimental to the stock. There has been an increase in marine anthropogenic activity, especially in the area of marine renewables. The construction and development of wind farms, for example, results in disturbance to the seabed, as does aggregate extraction. Gravel is an essential habitat for spawning herring.


In the European Union (EU), EU fishing vessels can fish up to 12 nautical miles of any Member State coast, and closer by agreement. There is overarching fisheries legislation for all Member States, but implementation varies between fisheries, Member States and sea basins.
The EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is the primary overarching policy. Its key environmental objectives are to restore and maintain harvested species at healthy levels (above BMSY), and apply the precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries management. To achieve the MSY objective, the MSY exploitation rate is supposed to be achieved by 2020, but this seems unlikely to happen.
The CFP also introduced a Landing Obligation (LO) which bans the discarding at sea of species which are subject to catch limits. Some exemptions apply to species with high post-capture survival, and where avoiding unwanted catches is very difficult. These exemptions are outlined in regional discard plans. Despite quota ‘uplift’ being granted to fleets under the LO, available evidence suggests there has been widespread non-compliance with the policy, and illegal and unreported discarding is likely occurring.
Multi-Annual Plans (MAPs) are a tool for implementing the CFP regionally, with one in place or being developed for each sea basin. They specify fishing mortality targets and ranges for the main targeted species, as well as lower biomass reference points. If populations drop below these points it should trigger a management response. The MAPs also empower Member States to jointly apply measures such as closures, gear or capacity limits, and bycatch limits. There is concern however that the MAPs do not provide adequate safeguards to maintain all stocks at healthy levels.
The EU Technical Measures regulation addresses how, where and when fishing can take place in order to limit unwanted catches and ecosystem impacts. There are common measures that apply to all EU sea basins, and regional measures that vary between sea basins. Measures include Minimum Conservation Reference Sizes (MCRS, previously Minimum Landing Sizes, MLS), gear specifications, mesh sizes, closed areas, and bycatch limits.
The Control Regulation, which is being revised in 2019, addresses application of and compliance with the above, e.g. keeping catches within limits, recording and sharing data, and satellite tracking of vessels over 12 metres (VMS).

Capture Information

There is little concern for bycatch or habitat impacts by this method.

100% of the 2018 herring catch in this area was taken by mid-water (pelagic) trawl, mostly by Ireland, and some by the Netherlands.

Because herring have been found closer to the bottom in recent years, they are harder to detect with acoustic sounders, making it more difficult for fishermen to find them, especially offshore. The fishery in 2018 was mainly concentrated inshore in 7.g with no significant offshore fishery, and Irish vessels had difficulty in catching the full quota.

Herring are an important prey species in the ecosystem and also one of the dominant planktivorous fish. Herring spawn close to the coast, and deposit their eggs on gravel or flat stone. Gravel extraction is therefore a threat to the stock.

Herring fisheries are considered to be clean with little bycatch of other fish. Mega-fauna bycatch is unquantified, though anecdotal reports suggest that seals, blue sharks, tunas, and whitefish are caught from time to time. In a 2017 observer study of the Celtic Sea herring fishery, whiting was the most frequently recorded bycatch species followed by haddock and mackerel. No marine mammals or seabirds were recorded as bycatch in the fishery, and only one elasmobranch (an unidentified dogfish species).

Alternatives

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
Mackerel
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
Swordfish
Trout, Rainbow
Tuna, albacore
Tuna, bigeye
Tuna, skipjack
Tuna, yellowfin

References

ICES. 2019. Herring Assessment Working Group for the Area South of 62degrees N (HAWG). ICES Scientific Reports. 1:2. http://doi.org/10.17895/ices.pub.5460. Available at https://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Expert%20Group%20Report/Fisheries%20Resources%20Steering%20Group/2019/HAWG/01%20HAWG%20Report%202019.pdf [Accessed on 16.07.2019].

ICES. 2019. Herring (Clupea harengus) in divisions 7.a South of 52-30degrees N, 7.g-h, and 7.j-k (Irish Sea, Celtic Sea, and southwest of Ireland). In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2019, her.27.irls, https://doi.org/10.17895/ices.advice.4718. Available at http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2019/2019/her.27.irls.pdf [Accessed on 16.07.2019]