Managing our herring

Herring has played a key role in the diets of Norwegians for centuries and today we share it with the world. Therefore, it is crucial that we manage our fish stocks, particularly in the spawning areas, to ensure that we can enjoy this delicious and nutritious fish for years to come.

Historically, managing herring stocks was notoriously difficult. This is because herring travels great distances over the course of its life. With today’s sonar technology and the cooperation of neighbouring countries, we can track the numbers of spawning herring and ensure the stocks remain at a sustainable level.

Graph showing stock size and catches of Norwegian spring-spawning herring 1907-1997

Development in spawning stock (blue) and catches (white) of Norwegian spring spawning herring from 1907-1997.

In the 1950s and 1960s the Norwegian spring spawning herring fisheries became more efficient. This was great for international trade, but it resulted in a decline in stock numbers. We learned a valuable lesson and put strict and efficient fisheries management in place to raise the stock levels to a sustainable level.

The four-year spawning process

Infographic showing a map of Norway with arrows pointing towards the coast of Northern Norway

The Norwegian spring spawning herring’s main spawning area is along the northwest coast of Norway in February-March but it also spawns along the coast of Northern Norway.

Infographic showing herring eggs on the bottom of the sea

The herring lay their eggs on the bottom of the sea where they hatch after about three weeks.

Infographic showing the hatched larvae drifting with the current

The newly hatched larvae drift with the current along the coast towards the north, into the Barents Sea early in the summer.

Infographic showing fish swimming westward

Then the herring larvae turn into little herring called pilchards. When the herring is 3-4 years old, it swims westward down along the coast and mixes gradually with the spawning stock.

Infographic showing a herring thinking about food

After spawning the adult herring swims into the Norwegian Sea on a long journey to find food.

Fish fact

In 2019, Norwegian fisheries caught 561,299 tonnes of herring.

Source: Directorate of Fisheries (fisheries.no)