Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission

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PACIFIC HERRING

DID YOU KNOW? Over 90% of the Pacific herring caught is for the roe or eggs inside the herring.

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Clupea pallasi, from the Latin clupea or herring, Low Latin harengus meaning army or multitude, and Perus Simon Pallas, a great Russian naturalist and explorer.

COMMON NAMES: California herring, eastern herring, and kara herring.

DESCRIPTION: Pacific herring is a compressed fish, silvery from below and bluish green to olive above; there are no black spots on sides or fins. Up to 18 inches in length and weigh up to 550 grams.

LIFECYCLE: Males and females school together to spawn at various times of the year, depending largely on the geographical location. Spawning commonly takes place in shallow near-shore environments close to vegetation. Males and females school together and spawn simultaneously. The fertilized eggs attach to vegetation, eelgrass, algae, grass, and brush in the inter-tidal and sub-tidal areas. Each female can produce 4,000 to 130,000 eggs that commonly hatch in 10 days to 2 weeks, and usually reach maturity in 2 to 4 years. Pacific herring commonly move onshore and offshore in schools to feed and spawn.

RANGE: In the North Pacific, Pacific herring can be found from Baja California to the Siberian Arctic.

HABITAT AND ECOLOGY: Pacific herring are plankton feeders, primarily feeding on copepods, amphipods, fish larvae, and molluscs. One of the most abundant species in the food chain, Pacific herring often serve as food for many other marine species, including salmon, marine mammals, and seabirds.

Because Pacific herring spawn in protected coastal habitats and estuaries, their eggs are especially susceptible to human actions such as shoreline development, residential drainage, and the filling of marine wetlands. Researchers believe that egg mortality is the major determinant of population size.

ECONOMIC VALUE: Pacific herring have been harvested for sale, fresh or salted, for a number of years as well as used for fish meal. Taking advantage of the Pacific herring's near-shore spawning cycle, fishermen have built a multi-million dollar fishing industry. Most U.S. harvests come from Washington, California, and Alaska. In addition, Pacific herring is an important bait fish.


Revised 12/16/96