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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Atlantic Herring Clupea harengus

Until the middle of the 20th century, the Atlantic herring was the mainstay of many fishing communities bordering the North Sea and north Atlantic.

Along the East Anglian coast of Great Britain, the fish were known as silver darlings. In the 20th century, excessive fishing using new techniques led to a steep decline in stocks of Atlantic herring. Today, the stocks are managed, but they are still under pressure.

The Atlantic herring feeds on plankton, coming to the surface at night after spending the day in deeper water. It lives in large shoals, and across its range the species is divided into distinct local races, which differ from each other in size and behavior. Each race of Atlantic herring has several traditional spawning grounds. The females produce up to 40,000 eggs each, which form a thick mat on the seabed.


Atlantic Herringzoom image
  • Order Clupeiformes
  • Length Up to 18 in (45 cm)
  • Weight Up to 2 lb (1 kg)
  • Depth 0–650 ft (0–200 m)
  • Distribution North Atlantic, North Sea, and Baltic Sea
Atlantic Herring habitat mapzoom image