The Atlantic herring is an oily fish found in the open sea throughout the North Atlantic. They congregate in large shoals called schools which can contain hundreds of thousands of fish – or more. Schools as large as four cubic kilometres have been observed. The species is further divided by scientists into numerous sub-species.
Herring can live up to 12 years, and reach 40 cm in length and almost 700g in weight. They are sexually mature at 3 or 4 years old, by which time they measure around 25 cm. Baltic herring tend to be smaller at maturity, around 14-18cm.
Herring are mainly caught by pelagic trawlers and purse seiners. The main stocks fished in EU waters are those in
The North Sea herring stock suffered a major collapse in the early 1970s, due to overfishing, which led to the fishery being completely closed from 1977 to 1980. A further decline in the 1990s led to recovery measures being implemented which have been largely successful.