Herring, abundant on Pacific and Atlantic coasts, also occur occasionally in Arctic waters. The Pacific subspecies (C. h. pallasi) differs from the Atlantic form (C. h. harengus) in several respects. Pacific herring spawn in spring, directly onto vegetation in intertidal and subtidal waters. They usually mature in their third year and seldom live more than 8 years. Their maximum standard length is about 26 cm. Atlantic herring spawn either in spring or autumn, usually over a gravel bottom. They mature in their fourth or fifth year, live 18 years or more and attain lengths of 35 cm or over.
Significance of Fishery
Herring have supported major commercial FISHERIES on both coasts. Both subspecies experience major population fluctuations caused by differences in brood survival. Prior to the mid-1900s, catches were limited by markets or catching capacities of fishing fleets. The development of an almost unlimited world market for herring meal and oil, plus major advances in fishing technology, led to overfishing of Pacific stocks 1956-66, when annual catches usually exceeded 200 000 t, and of Atlantic stocks 1968-71, when Canadian catches exceeded 400 000 t annually. Both fisheries have since been strictly regulated.
Pacific fishermen using mainly purse seines and gillnets took about 50 000 t annually during the late 1970s; this was further reduced to an average of 33 000 t in the early 1980s but recovered slightly in the early 1990s to almost 40 000 t. However, the value of the catch was much higher than before because of the prime price fetched on the Japanese market for quality herring roe, which makes up the majority of the catch. Catches of Atlantic herring averaged about 235 000 t during the late 1970s, taken primarily by purse seine and mid-water trawl for sale to European processors. Abundance declined on the East Coast also during the early 1980s, with catches averaging 189 700 t. In the early 1990s catches had risen to 217 000 t. A traditional weir fishery for young herring, for canning as SARDINES, operates in NB.
Distribution and Habitat
Seven other members of the family are found in Canadian waters. Atlantic round herring (Etrumeus sadina), Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) and Pacific sardine or pilchard (Sardinops sagax) are ocean spawners most abundant in southern US waters. They are now rare and of no commercial importance in Canada, although Pacific sardines supported a major fishery in BC during a period of high abundance (mid-1920s to 1940s).
Alewife or glut herring (Alosa pseudoharengus), American shad (A. sapidissima) and blueback herring (A. aestivalis) are anadromous (eg, live in the sea but spawn in fresh water) on the Atlantic coast. They are also most abundant in the south, but alewife and American shad are relatively common in Canadian coastal waters, where they are fished commercially. American shad, introduced on the Pacific coast in 1871, is now found in the FRASER R and Rivers Inlet. A landlocked form of alewife is plentiful in the GREAT LAKES; many of its local names include the word "herring." There is also the gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum) of the Great Lakes basin. At least 4 other freshwater fishes (2 ciscos, goldeye and mooneye) are also known by names sometimes containing the word "herring."
Author A.S. HOURSTON
Links to Other Sites
Canadian Biodiversity Website
A great information source for all budding biologists. Learn about biodiversity theory, natural history, and conservation issues. From McGill’s Redpath Museum.
450 Years of Making Fish
This online exhibit features a wide variety of archival images, texts, video and audio clips, and links that tell the story of the salt-fish processing industry. Also features a glossary of key terms. From the Newfoundland and Labrador website "The Rooms."
Fishes of Canada's National Capital Region
A comprehensive guide to fishes found in the National Capital Region of Canada. Scroll down the list of scientific and English names and click on the appropriate link for detailed biological information including species’ ranges across Canada and illustrations. Also, check out the extensive online glossary of terms related to fish and other vertebrates. This site was developed by Brian W. Coad, an ichthyologist at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa.
West Coast of Newfoundland Atlantic Herring
A detailed analysis of Newfoundland Atlantic herring populations and related commercial fishing operations. From the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.