Atlantic Herring

Herring fish comes from the genus Clupea and belongs to the family Clupeidae. There are primarily two species of Herring, Atlantic herring and Pacific herring. Nonetheless, the name Herring is more commonly used to refer to Atlantic Herring. They are abundantly found and are fished for commercial purposes. It is widely eaten by people all over the world. In the United States, Atlantic Herring is sold as canned Sardines, steaks and kippers. They are also used to lure Tuna, Blue crabs and Lobsters.

Scientific Classification

Clupea harengus

Table Of Content

Scientific Classification

Clupea harengus

Alternative Names

Atlantis Herring has a few of other names as well.

  • Herring
  • Sperling
  • Sardine
  • Common Herring
  • Labrador Herring
  • Sild
  • Sea Herring


Atlantic Herring is small in size.

Size: These fishes reach a size of 45 cm.

Weight: These fishes weigh a little more than 500 gm.

Scales: Few of them are said to have pointed scales.

Color: These beautiful fishes are silver colored. Atlantic herring have dark bluish or at times greenish backs.

Appearance: These fishes have small head which is flattened. The shape of the body is slim and smooth. They have a lower jaw which projects out and resembles the jaw of a bull dog. The posterior edge of the gill opening is uniformly rounded.

Atlantic Herring Picture

Picture 1 – Atlantic Herring

Fins: They have a single dorsal fin with no side lines. The dorsal fins do not have backbones contrasting to other fishes. The tail like fin is deeply divided. The single dorsal fin is situated at mid-body and there is no fat fin.

Eyes: The eyes are somewhat covered by a fatty eyelid.


The Atlantic Herrings are abundantly found in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, where it is commonly called Pacific Herring. Atlantic herring dwells in the north eastern Atlantic area. They are not found in the Mediterranean region.


Atlantic Herring are aquatic and travel to inshore and offshore spawning grounds. Adult Herring fishes spawn on Georges Bank and travel south western to the mid Atlantic area in search of warmer waters during the winters. They usually return to the Gulf of Maine during the springs.


Herrings stay in coastal waters over the continental area. They live in bays, lagoons and water bodies at depth of 1 to 200m.


Atlantic Herring has some unique behavioral patterns.

  • Herring fish swims in groups, which is known as schooling.
  • Herring fish are also called forage fish, as they are near the bottom of the eco system’s food chain, therefore serving as food for their predators.
  • They spend their daytime in deep water, but rise up to the surface at night.
  • They are migratory in nature.


Herring fishes feed on minute organisms like planktons, small fish, crustaceans, fish larvae, zooplanktons, striped bass, copepods, small cruataceans, pteropods and other small marine animals. Phytoplanktons are eaten mainly by the young ones.


The Atlantic Herring has predators like whales, cod, salmon, and halibut. Sea mammals like whales, as well as sea birds, seals, sharks, tuna, dog fish and dolphins attack these attractive fishes.


Here are some of the adaptive features of this species of fish.

  • The glowing silver color of their body helps them to hide in the surrounding water.
  • Some of them have pointed and sharp scales which helps them to defend themselves against their predators, during their fight for survival.
  • As they flock in schools, others help to distract the predator while one of them is attacked.

Photos of Atlantic Herring Picture 2 – Atlantic Herring Photo

Nutritional Facts

Let us take a look at the nutritional value of these beautiful and delicious fishes.

  • Sodium
  • Fat
  • Saturated Fat
  • Trans Fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Protein
  • Vitamin A
  • Iron
  • Vitamin C
  • Calcium

Breeding Season

They mate sometime between midsummer and the month of December. This is the best time for the herrings to spawn. Herring fish become sexually mature when they are around four to nine years old.


The eggs are deposited on rocks or seaweed. It generally takes about fourteen days to hatch. The young ones normally reach adulthood in about four years. Herrings travel towards the shore to spawn between the months of December and July. The female deposits as many as forty thousand eggs on seaweed and rocks.

Fertilization is external. Female Herrings releases eggs and male herrings release lots of milt at the same time. The Herrings become fat prior to spawning, because they feed on the spring blooms of plankton offered up by temperate waters of the Gulf. Mature eggs make up most of the portion of the female’s body mass. The fertilized eggs hatch into larvae in seven to ten days depending on the temperature of the water.


The larva swims towards the surface. Herrings become sexually mature when they reach the age of two to three years. Baby Herrings gain diet from autumn coastal blooms. They are often hastily snatched away from the sea by diving birds like guillemots.

The larvae are about 5 to 6 millimeters long at hatching, with a small yolk sac which gets absorbed by the time the larva reaches 10 millimeters. The eyes are well pigmented. The rest of the body is almost see-through, close to invisible under water and natural luminance conditions.


They have a life expectancy of 12 to 16 years.

Conservation Status

Atlantic Herring is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN. They are one of the fishes which are abundantly found.

Interesting Facts

Here are some of the interesting facts about this beautiful silver colored fish.

  • One of the most interesting facts is that these fishes keep their mouths open while swimming and by this way they filter the planktons, which goes through their gills.
  • Southern Herrings can live up to twenty five years.
  • Another interesting trait about Herring fishes is that they have been a major source of staple food for human beings all over the world. Commercially, it is often sold salted, pickled. They are found as smoked or canned as Sardines.
  • This is an important source of food in many countries that lie in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. They are smoked, fermented, pickled and at times eaten raw.
  • Herrings are used for making fish oil. They serve as good sources of vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids.


Here are some of the amazing pictures of this fish species.

Pictures of Atlantic Herring Picture 3 – Atlantic Herring Picture

Images of Atlantic Herring Picture 4 – Atlantic Herring Image

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