Pacific Herring | Oceana Canada

Canadian Marine Life Encyclopedia

Pacific Herring

Clupea pallasii pallasii

Also known as

sea herring, sild, hareng

Distribution

Throughout the North Pacific, ranging from Alaska down to Mexico

Ecosystem/Habitat

Pelagic to coastal in cold to temperate waters

Feeding Habits

Filter feeder

Conservation Status

Not listed

Taxonomy

Order Clupeiformes (herrings); Family Clupeidae (herrings, shads, sardines and menhadens)

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Pacific herring are a small and widely abundant fish that are very important to both the ecology and culture of Canada’s Pacific coast. Many other species rely on them for food, including larger fish, seabirds as well as marine and terrestrial mammals. Pacific herring also have significant value to communities, including First Nations. Some First Nations have stories and songs about herring that have been passed down to subsequent generations, demonstrating the long-term connection of Indigenous Peoples to this fish.

Adult herring congregate in large schools containing millions of fish, where they forage in the open ocean. These large schools then migrate into and along the coast in the spring to spawn. One female can lay around 20,000 eggs. The eggs are deposited on seaweed, sea grass or rough rocks and, because the eggs are very sticky, they cling to these surfaces. The males will then swim overtop the eggs spreading their sperm, which turn the ocean a characteristic turquoise-blue colour. This spawning period typically lasts two to four days; the larvae will then hatch from the fertilized eggs 10 to 14 days later.

The larvae and juveniles will spend their first summer near shore and in shallow bays, moving into deeper waters in the fall. Pacific herring reach sexual maturity at three to four years old, at which time they will join the other adult herring in their seasonal migrations. They can live to be up to 15 years old, however most do not live much longer than eight years.