name = Herring
fossil_range = fossilrange|55|0
Early Eocene to Present [cite journal
last = Sepkoski
first = Jack
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = A compendium of fossil marine animal genera
journal = Bulletins of American Paleontology
volume = 364
issue =
pages = p.560
publisher =
location =
date = 2002
url = http://strata.ummp.lsa.umich.edu/jack/showgenera.php?taxon=611&rank=class
doi =
id =
accessdate = 2007-12-25

image_caption = Atlantic Herring
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Actinopterygii
ordo = Clupeiformes
familia = Clupeidae
genus = "Clupea"
genus_authority = Linnaeus, 1758
subdivision_ranks = Species
subdivision = "Clupea alba" "Clupea bentincki" "Clupea caspiopontica" "Clupea chrysotaenia" "Clupea elongata" "Clupea halec" "Clupea harengus" "Clupea inermis" "Clupea leachii" "Clupea lineolata" "Clupea minima" "Clupea mirabilis" "Clupea pallasii" "Clupea sardinacaroli" "Clupea sulcata"

Herring are small, oily fish of the genus "Clupea" found in the shallow, temperate waters of the North Atlantic, the Baltic Sea, the North Pacific, and the Mediterranean. There are 15 species of herring, the most abundant of which is the Atlantic herring ("Clupea harengus").Fact|date=February 2007 Herrings move in vast schools, coming in spring to the shores of Europe and America, where they are caught, salted and smoked in great quantities. Canned "sardines" (or pilchards) seen in supermarkets may actually be sprats or round herrings.

In The Netherlands, herring have played a major role in historical and economic development dating back to the 14th century.


All of the 200 species in the family Clupeidae share similar distinguishing features. They are silvery colored fish that have a single dorsal fin. Unlike most other fish, they have soft dorsal fins that lack spines, though some species have pointed scales that form a serrated keel. They have no lateral line and have a protruding lower jaw. Their overall size varies from species to species: the Baltic herring is small, usually about 14 to 18 centimeters in length, the Atlantic herring can grow to about 46 cm (18 inches) in length and weigh up to 1.5 pounds (680 g), and Pacific herring grow to about 38 cm (15 inches).


Predators of adult herring include seabirds, dolphins, porpoises, seals, sea lions, whales, and humans. Sharks, dog fish, tuna, cod, salmon, halibut and other large fish also feed on adult herring. Many of these animals also prey on juvenile herring.


Young herring feed on phytoplankton and as they mature they start to consume larger organisms. Adult herring feed on zooplankton, tiny animals that are found in oceanic surface waters, and small fish and fish larvae. Copepods and other tiny crustaceans are the most common zooplankton eaten by herring. During daylight herring stay in the safety of deep water, feeding at the surface only at night when there is less chance of predation. They swim along with their mouths open, filtering the plankton from the water as it passes through their gills.

See Atlantic herring for videos of feeding juvenile herring, catching copepods.


Herring are an important economic fish. Adult fish are harvested for their meat and eggs. In Southeast Alaska herring is sold as baitfish. Environmental Defense suggests Atlantic herring ("Clupea harengus") as one of the more environmentally responsible fish available. [http://www.edf.org/page.cfm?tagID=15890]


Herring has been a known staple food source since 3000 B.C. There are numerous ways the fish is served and many regional recipes: eaten raw, fermented, pickled, or cured by other techniques. The fish was sometimes known as "two-eyed steak".


Herring are very high in healthy long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids [ [http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080310164906.htm Cardiovascular Benefits Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids Reviewed ] ] , EPA and DHAFact|date=October 2007. They are a source of vitamin D.

Large Baltic herring slightly exceeds recommended limits with respect to PCB and dioxin. Nevertheless, the health benefits from the fatty acids are more important than the theoretical risk from dioxin; their cancer-reducing effect is statistically stronger than the cancer-causing effect of PCBs and dioxins. [ [http://www.evira.fi/portal/en/evira/current_issues/?id=332 Risks and benefits are clarified by food risk assessment - Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira ] ] The contaminant levels depend on the age of the fish which can be inferred from their size. Baltic herrings larger than 17 cm may be eaten twice a month, while herrings smaller than 17 cm can be eaten freely. [ [http://www.evira.fi/portal/en/food/dietary_advice_on_fish_consumption/ Dietary advice on fish consumption - Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira ] ]

Pickled herring

Pickled herring is a delicacy popular in Europe and has become a basic part of both Jewish and Nordic cuisine. Most cured herring uses a two-step curing process. Initially, herring is cured with salt to extract water. The second stage involves removing the salt and adding flavorings, typically a vinegar, salt, sugar solution to which ingredients like peppercorn, bay leaves and raw onions are added.

In Scandinavia, once the pickling process is finished and depending on which of the dozens of classic herring flavourings (mustard, onion, garlic, lingonberries etc.) are selected, it is usually enjoyed with dark rye bread, crisp bread, or potatoes. This dish is a must at Christmas and Midsummer, where it is enjoyed with akvavit.

In the Middle Ages the Dutch developed a special treat known in English as soused herring or "rollmops".

Pickled herrings are also common in Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine, perhaps best known for "forshmak" salad known in English simply as "chopped herring".

Pickled herring can also be found in the cuisine of Hokkaidō in Japan, where families traditionally preserved large quantities for winter.


The word Rollmops, borrowed from Dutch language and German, refers to a pickled herring fillet rolled (hence the name) into a cylindrical shape around a piece of pickled gherkin or an onion.


In Sweden, Baltic herring is fermented to make "surströmming".


A typical Dutch delicacy is "Hollandse Nieuwe", or Soused herring, which is raw herring from the catches end of spring, beginning of summer . This is typically eaten with raw onions. "Hollandse nieuwe" is only available in spring when the first seasonal catch of herring is brought in. This is celebrated in festivals such as the Vlaardingen Herring Festival. The new herring are frozen and enzyme-preserved for the remainder of the year.

Herring is also canned and exported by many countries. A "sild" is an immature herring that is canned as sardines in Iceland, Sweden, Norway or Denmark.

Very young herring are called whitebait and are eaten whole as a delicacy.

Other means

A kipper is a split and smoked herring, a bloater is a whole smoked herring, and a buckling is a hot smoked herring with the guts removed. All are staples of British cuisine. According to George Orwell in "The Road to Wigan Pier", the Emperor Charles V erected a statue to the inventor of bloaters.

In Scandinavia, herring soup is also a traditional dish.

In Southeast Alaska, western hemlock boughs are cut and placed in the ocean before the herring arrive to spawn. The fertilized herring eggs stick to the boughs, and are easily collected. After being boiled briefly the eggs are removed from the bough. Herring eggs collected in this way are eaten plain or in herring egg salad. This method of collection is part of Tlingit tradition.

Herring in popular culture

Figuratively, a "red herring" is a false lead in a mystery. In this context, "red" means smoked, and a smoked herring has such a strong smell that it can be used to create a false scent that causes hunting dogs to lose a track.

Herrings are focus of many jokes as a result of a scene in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail", where the Knights who say Ni ask King Arthur to "cut down the mightiest tree in the forest with ... a herring!"

In the Linux game "Planet Penguin Racer", you play as the Linux mascot "Tux" (A penguin). The goal is to slide down a course of snow and ice collecting herring.

Ula from "The Producers" eats "many different herrings" as part of a Swedish breakfast.

In a recent stand-up comedy performance, Eddie Izzard discussed "surströmming" with some Swedes who happened to be in the audience, while reading from a live copy of Wikipedia's article on herring.

In the 1959 movie Some Like it Hot, the character "Joe" (Tony Curtis), masquerading as "Junior", describes a large fish trophy as "a member of the herring family". "Sugar" (Marilyn Monroe) ponders "how they get those big fish into those little glass jars." Joe replies, "They shrink when they're marinated."

Smoked herring is especially a traditional meal on the Danish island in the Baltic Sea, Bornholm.

In Gogol Bordello's song "American Wedding" refers to the fish. "Have you ever been to American Wedding? Where is the Vodka, where is marinated herring?

In the 1975 Woody Allen comedy Love and Death, one of the main characters, Sonja (Diane Keaton) is at one point married to Leon Voskovec (Sol L. Frieder), who is in fact a herring merchant.

In the movie "MirrorMask", Helena asks a sphinx the riddle "What's green, hangs on a wall, and whistles?" to distract it. When the sphinx gives up, she responds "A herring."

ee also

* (looping) of a school of Atlantic herring "Clupea harengus" on its migration to their spawning grounds in the Baltic Sea.
* Soused herring
* Scania Market


* O'Clair, Rita M. and O'Clair, Charles E., "Pacific herring," "Southeast Alaska's Rocky Shores: Animals". pg. 343-346. Plant Press: Auke Bay, Alaska (1998). ISBN 0-9664245-0-6

External links

* [http://www.seafish.org/upload/b2b/file/fact_sheets/Herring%20Factsheet2%20A4s.pdf Guide to Responsible Sourcing of Herring - produced by Seafish]
* [http://www.clupea.net/biology/index.html clupea.net]
* [http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99994343 Herring "communicate" by flatulence] from newscientist.com
* [http://www.gma.org/herring/default.asp Atlantic Herring] from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute
* [http://www.healthaliciousness.com/nutritionfacts/nutrition-comparison.php?o=15042&t=15041&h=15040&s=100&e=100&r=100 Nutrition Facts for Herring]

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