A silvery creature with some tinges of blue here and there, and a forked tail! Are you guessing yet? Yes, it’s a herring! This fish has a torpedo-shaped body with a dark greyish-blue upper-side, and silver over the rest of its body. Silver herring is well known, but have you heard the term “red herring”? A red herring is used to describe a plot device in mystery fiction that leads the reader to a wrong solution or to mislead or distract from a relevant or important question.
We’ve prepared some interesting facts about herrings that’ll do just the opposite and lead you to accurate and significant information on herrings…
Herrings belong to a wider family of around 200 fish species, but there are three species of herrings that are most common: Atlantic, Pacific, and Araucanian.
The Battle of the Herrings was fought in 1429 near Rouvray, France, when French forces tried to disrupt a convoy of fish and arms to the British.
Herrings are small-headed, streamlined, beautifully colored fish with silvery iridescent sides and deep blue, metallic-hued backs.
Adults range from 20 to 38 centimeters (8 to 15 inches) in length.
The body of the herring is covered with large, thin, loosely attached scales. The mouth is large and contains small weak teeth. The lateral line is not visible, and there is no barbell.
One of the most abundant species of fishes in the world, herrings eat such minute organisms as copepods, pteropods, and other planktonic crustaceans, as well as fish larvae.
This species lives in large groups known as “schools.” A single school can contain more than a billion individuals! However, most schools number in the thousands or hundreds of thousands at the most.
They travel in vast schools, providing food for larger predators such as cod, salmon, and tuna.
Despite the immense numbers that you can find this species in, they are actually quite fragile and sensitive.
The Herring Net, 1885 by Winslow Homer
Though their populations remain high, in regions with greater pollution these fish noticeably disappear.
Herrings may be caught with drift nets and surrounding nets (mostly seine nets or trawls).
Herring spawn between December and midsummer, depending upon latitude and temperature.
Each female deposits as many as 40,000 sticky eggs on seaweed or rocks; the eggs hatch in about two weeks.
Herrings move shoreward to spawn, and after spawning, the schools of mature herrings disperse.
The fish mature in about 4 years and may live 20 years.
The large herring fisheries are subject to great fluctuations in their annual catches because the survival of the populations of young herrings varies widely from year to year.
Each ground around the British coast has its season, and the fishery at any one place is rarely exploited outside these periods.
During a season the size of the catch can fluctuate enormously from year to year and, in some instances, as off East Anglia for example, the stocks may disappear completely, perhaps for several years.
The size of the British herring catch declined rapidly in the years after the Second World War until 1968, but since that date, the amount caught has gradually increased.
In addition to other members of the genus Clupea (e.g., the bristling, or sprat), the term herring is applied to other members of the family Clupeidae, including the skipjack herring (Alosa chrysochloris) and the alewife (A., or Pomolobus, pseudoharengus).
The term herring is also used for certain fishes in families other than Clupeidae, such as the wolf herring (Chirocentrus dorab).
We have eaten herrings since at least 3000BC.
Herrings have been salted in Europe for at least 1000 years to keep as winter food.
Salting preserves the fish without refrigeration and makes it easy to transport, as well as extending its shelf life significantly.
In eastern Canada and the north-eastern United States, most of the herring utilized are young fish, taken in inshore weirs or seines, that is canned as sardines.
This fish has creamy colored meat, high oil content, and a small flake.
Herring carrying the blue MSC label is certified sustainable.
The bulk of the herring taken in the Pacific Ocean is used in the manufacture of fish oil and meal, and smaller quantities are pickled and smoked.
Herring is mostly processed for smoking, curing, or canning, but fresh herring is excellent fried, grilled, or boiled.
Herring is a staple food in many cultures and can be prepared in different ways.
Raw herring with raw onion is a spring delicacy in the Netherlands.
In the Philippines, herring is eaten dried and often served with garlic, rice, and eggs for breakfast.
In Sweden, strong-smelling fermented herring (surströmming) is eaten with flatbread and toppings like mashed potato, and diced onions.
The herring is found on both sides of the north Atlantic.
The most important fishing grounds are the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the coastal waters of Britain, Norway, Iceland, and Canada.
The number of herring in the North Atlantic has been estimated at four billion.
The phrase red herring comes from the use of kippers to train or possibly divert hunting dogs.
A sculpture of a shoal of herring may be seen at the port of Fishguard, Wales.
A study in 2003 reported that herring may communicate at night by breaking wind.
A Lithograph depicting Act II Scene III of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy
The first barrel of new herring caught in the Netherlands is always sold at an auction. In 2010 the barrel of 45 herring went for about £45,000.
Herrings are even mentioned in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”, “…and fools are as like husbands as pilchards are to herrings; the husband’s the bigger”.
Do you know any fun, strange or interesting facts about herrings you’d like to share? Share them here in the comments section below!