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Atlantic Herring
 Herring Harvest and Processing
harvest sub-links
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herring weirs
Herring Weirs
Traditional and modern
coastal fixed-gear fisheries
purse seining
Purse Seining
Fishing for herring at night
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Mid-Water Trawling
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The sardine industry
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Sticks in the Mud to High Tech Trawlers - Getting Herring to Market

The ocean is one of the few remaining natural systems where wild species are harvested by humans on a grand scale. Just as marine birds and mammals have taken advantage of bountiful herring schools along northern coasts, humans in marine environments have long depended upon this resource for sustenance. Atlantic herring fisheries existed as early as 240 A.D. [1] Nearly every culture along North Atlantic coasts, from historical tribes and settlements to modern communities, have fished for herring. In 1803, Lacepede wrote,

chart of herring catch in 1919
"Herring is one, the use of whose natural production has decided the destiny of empires. The bean of coffee, the leaves of tea, the spices of the tropics, the worms that make silk, are of smaller influence on the nations richness than the herring of the Atlantic Ocean. A luxury or whim comes first to mind; but the real place is claimed by herring." [1]

Historically, Gulf of Maine herring were harvested along the coast in fixed-gear weirs. Today in the Gulf of Maine, herring are harvested primarily by purse seiners and mid-water trawlers equipped with modern technologies like GPS and hydroacoustic fishfinders. In 1997 alone, 80,000 metric tons of herring were landed in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. [2]

Pound for pound, the Atlantic herring fishery is the largest single fishery in Maine. [3] Juvenile herring harvested in the Gulf of Maine support a multi-million dollar canning industry. In addition, the herring is important behind the scenes of several other maritime industries, supplying the chief source of bait for the Maine lobster fishery. New, larger freezer plants have increased capacity for processing herring.

For more information on herring landings in the Gulf of Maine, click here.



[1] Stephenson. RL. (2001) The Role of Herring Investigations in Shaping Fisheries Science. "Herring: Expectations for a New Millenium". Alaska Sea Grant College Program. AK-SG-01-04.  

[2] Maine Department of Marine Resources Website,
Herring Landings Page. http://www.maine.gov/dmr/commercialfishing/historicaldata.htm.

[3] Maine Department of Marine Resources Website,
Herring Page. http://www.maine.gov/dmr/rm/herring/index.htm.

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