WHAT IS A HERRING?
While small in size, this tiny guy travels in very large schools of fish. They are sometimes confusingly called sardines (American “Atlantic Herring” vs. the European “Plichard” both of which are sardines). The deep, metallic hue of the herring’s silver scales and streamlined appearance seem more appropriate in a Mercedes then a plankton eating fish. Growing to 15 inches (38 cm) in size, they are trawled with nets, and often end up smoked, pickled or canned in the States as sardines. While they have a life expectancy of around 15 years, the demand over the last few decades has surged since they’re rich in Omega 3 oil.
WHERE DO HERRINGS COME FROM?
The name has been used interchangeably in multiple northern European languages. The adaptability of this fish has lead to populations in the Atlantic, Pacific and Baltic Seas. While their exact age is impossible to determine, the herring has such a crucial impact on the marine ecosystem that they easily predate mankind.
WHEN ARE HERRINGS IN SEASON?
Herrings spawn 1 to 2 times a year (mid-winter, mid-summer) depending on the geographic location. One female can lay between 30,000 to 50,000 eggs that will hatch in just 2 weeks! Their genital organs need to grow so large that they make up 20% of the fish’s weight.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SCHOOL AND A SHOAL OF HERRINGS?
The meanings of the two terms overlap somewhat. Any group of fish swimming together can be referred to as a “shoal.” If this same group swims in the same direction, they are then “schooling.” The oddity effect is a biological theory that posits that shoals limit diversity. Predators are most likely to eat prey that catch their eye. Fish that don’t look very similar in a given group are therefore more likely to be eaten.
ARE HERRINGS ONE OF THE DIRTY DOZEN? (MERCURY)
No! They actually have some of the lowest mercury levels among ocean delicacies. And being a cold water fish, herring are rich in anti-oxidants and have a firmer texture then their warm water cousins.