Fisheries // Species


Herring (Clupea harengus)

Herring can be found at depths down to 200 meters in the North Sea and along the borders of the Atlantic Ocean. The herring can be divided in different populations, which are mainly distinguished by size of the fish, rate of growth and migration routes. The spawning takes place in August-September, and in December. A single female produces 20.000-50.000 eggs. After spawning, the low-fat herring migrates back to grounds that are richer in plankton. It starts feeding again in April-May. The 'Dutch-matjes herring' (or green herring) is caught during May-July. This fish is sold all through the year. The PFA North Sea Herring Fishery has a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification as a sustainable fishery.

Mackerel (Scomber scombrus)

Mackerel is found in the northern part of the North sea and west of Scotland and Ireland. In January the mackerel off the Shetland Islands becomes of importance to the fishing fleet. From there, the mackerel gradually goes south. The population divides into three groups. A small group swims into the North Sea ('east' mackerel), another group stays in the Irish sea areas and the largest group goes southwards along the Scottish and Irish west coast ('west' mackerel). With an average speed of 10 km/ph mackerel is a swift swimmer. After approximately three years the female mackerel is ready to spawn and produces 200.000 - 450.000 eggs. Although smoked mackerel is considered a delicacy in Europe, almost 90 % of the deep frozen mackerel are exported abroad.

Horse mackerel (Trachurus trachurus)

Horse mackerel is mostly caught in the waters off Scotland and Ireland, in the Gulf of Biscay and, since 1996, in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Mauritania. The female produces up to 140.000 pelagic eggs. It is one of the most important pelagic species for the freezer-trawler fleet. Horse mackerel is a bony fish that is mostly exported to the Russian, Nigerian and Japanese market.

Pacific jack mackerel (Trachurus murphyi)

This species is distributed along the western coast of Latin America both inside and outside the EEZ (200 mile zone). The length of the Pacific jack mackerel is commonly below 50cm. Pacific jack mackerel travel in large shoals, up to 600 miles offshore and to depths of 400 m, generally moving through the upper part of the water column.

Blue Whiting (Micromesistius poutassou)

Blue Whiting lives in the open ocean at depths of 100 - 1000 meters. Often found above the continental slope, mainly at depths of 150 - 400 meters. They follow the vertical migrations of their food, the zooplankton, towards surface at night and towards the bottom in the morning. Spawning takes place in March-April west of the British Isles and locally off Norway and Iceland. The female produces 6.000 - 150.000 eggs. After spawning the shoals migrate to their feeding grounds in Norwegian fjords and in the northern North Sea.

Sardinella (Sardinella aurita)

Sardinella belongs to the same family as the herring. This species has a wide distribution in West African waters. There are in fact two species of sardinella: the flat and the round sardinella. The round sardinella is more numerous and occurs further from the coast than the flat sardinella. It also has a more northern distribution (Morocco and Mauritania) than the flat sardinella (Senegal, Gambia). When spawning (when they are approximately 20-23 cm.), the sardinella produces its eggs close to the coast. Annual changes in water temperature, ocean currents and food conditions seem to have a strong influence on the distribution of sardinella. 

Sardine (Sardina pilchardus)

Sardines form shoals, usually at depths of 25 to 55 or even 100m by day, rising to 10 to 35 m at night.   They feed mainly on planktonic crustaceans but also on larger organisms. Spawning in batches in the open sea or near the coast, sardines produce 50,000-60,000 eggs with a mean diameter of 1.5mm.

Greater Silver Smelt ( Argentina silus)

The greater silver smelt is somewhat herring-like in appearance, being a streamlined fish with silvery coloration and large scales. It has large eyes, covering almost half the head.  The average size on landing is 40 to 50cm. The greater silver smelt is a bentho-pelagic fish, meaning that it occurs both close to the bottom, where it is fished with a bottom trawl, and in the water column, where it is fished with a pelagic trawl. It occurs in European waters from the Bay of Biscay to the Barents Sea, and is also found off the Faroe Islands, Iceland, southern Greenland and in North American waters from Newfoundland to Cape Cod. It is common at depths of 200 to 500 m.



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