Herring

Herring

Herring

At a glance

Eco-rating Mercury Omega-3s
+-Atlantic herring
OK
Low
High

MORE ABOUT ATLANTIC HERRING

The silvery Atlantic herring lives in large schools that migrate and spawn in complex patterns. At night, herring migrate from deeper waters to the surface. Herring schools can quickly flit from predators. Herring average 1.5 feet (46 cm) in length.

Commercial Sources

Atlantic herring are found in the North Atlantic Ocean. In the eastern Atlantic, they occur from the Baltic Sea to the northern Bay of Biscay off France, and around Iceland. In the western Atlantic, they range from Greenland and Labrador to South Carolina.

The main source of Atlantic herring is Norway followed by Iceland and Canada.

Capture Methods

Atlantic herring come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with midwater trawls. Additional types of fishing gear include purse seines and bottom trawls.

+-Alewife
Unrated
Low

MORE ABOUT ALEWIFE

Alewifes are grayish-green with silvery sides and a protruding lower jaw. They travel in schools along the Atlantic coast from the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Nova Scotia to North Carolina.

Alewives migrate up rivers and even small streams to spawn, then return to sea. Landlocked populations, which live in the Great Lakes and other Northeastern waters, also head upriver to spawn.

In addition to being eaten by humans, the fish is used for crab and lobster bait and sometimes pet food. The fish live up to 8 years, growing to 1.3 feet (40 cm).

Commercial Sources

Alewives are found along the Atlantic coast of North America, from the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada to North Carolina. They occur in freshwater and marine environments, and some populations are landlocked in several lakes.

The main sources of alewives are Canada and the United States.

Capture Methods

Alewives come from coastal fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with gillnets and pound nets. Additional types of fishing gear include trap nets, dip nets, bottom trawls and hooks-and-lines.

+-Pacific herring
Unrated
Low
High

MORE ABOUT PACIFIC HERRING

Popular for its eggs (roe) in Asia, the Pacific herring is also used in Chinese medicine. Pacific herring live in large schools along coastal waters, although there are some landlocked populations. They can reach 1.5 feet (46 cm) length. The Pacific herring is reported to live up to 19 years. It inhabits fresh and/or salt water.

Commercial Sources

Pacific herring are found in the freshwater and marine environments of the Arctic Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. In the Pacific they range from Japan to Kamchatka in East Asia, around the Aleutian Islands, and from the Beaufort Sea to northern Baja California in Mexico.

The main source of Pacific herring is the Russian Federation followed by the United States.

Capture Methods

Pacific herring come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with purse seines. Additional types of fishing gear include gillnets and trawls.

Recommended servings per month

Contaminant Men Women Kids 6-12 Kids 0-5
Alewife Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Atlantic herring Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Pacific herring Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Eco details: 
  • These small fish swim in large schools and are related to shads, sardines and menhadens.
  • Strong joint management between the U.S. and Canada helped revive the Atlantic herring fishery, and populations of these herring appear to be on the rise.
  • Alewife, or river herring, were abundant in the late 1950s, but habitat loss and overfishing drastically reduced stocks.
  • Pacific herring are highly prized for their roe (eggs) in Asia. Populations appear to be a fraction of what they used to be.