Recolonisation of spawning grounds in a recovering fish stock: recent changes in North Sea herring


  • Jörn O. Schmidt IFM-GeOmar, Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences - Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Department of Economics
  • Cindy J.G. van Damme Wageningen IMARES
  • Christine Röckmann Wageningen IMARES
  • Mark Dickey-Collas Wageningen IMARES



spatial diversity, larvae survey, IHLS, re-colonisation, downs


There is evidence that the importance of the different spawning grounds of North Sea autumn-spawning herring has changed. It has been hypothesised that as herring stocks collapse, the diversity of spawning sites also collapses. This was found to be the case in the North Sea autumn-spawning herring, which collapsed in the late 1970s. The ICES International Herring Larval Survey has been carried out since 1972 and covers most of the potential and historic spawning grounds of herring. The recovery of the stock did take place as predicted in terms of biomass, and re-colonisation of old spawning sites also did occur. We show that, despite the delayed response in re-colonisation of the southern spawning areas, there is almost no change in the number of spawning locations where the highest abundances of larvae (top 50%) are found from collapse to recovery (approximately 9 sites). It was a change in these core sites and the spread to other locations with lower larval abundance that caused the spread of herring spawning. We show that larval surveys are a useful tool for describing the dynamics of sub-stock structure in heterogeneous populations such as herring.


Download data is not yet available.


Alheit, J. and E. Hagen. – 1997. Long-term climate forcing of European herring and sardine populations. Fish. Oceanogr., 2: 130-139. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2419.1997.00035.x

Anthony, V.C. and M.J. Fogarty. – 1985. Environmental effects on recruitment, growth and vulnerability of Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus harengus) in the Gulf of Maine Region. Can. J. Fish. Aquatic. Sci., 42: 158-173.

Bainbridge, V. and D.C.T. Forsyth. – 1972. An ecological survey of a Scottish herring fishery. Part V: The plankton of the northwestern North Sea in relation to the physical environment and the distribution of the herring. Bull. Mar. Ecol., 8: 21-52.

Burd, A.C. – 1985. Recent changes in the central and southern North Sea herring stocks. Can. J. Fish. Aquatic Sci., 42(Suppl 1): 192-206.

Corten, A. – 2001. Herring and Climate. Changes in the distribution of North Sea herring due to climate fluctuations. Ph.D. thesis, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.

Corten, A. – 1999. The reappearance of spawning Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) on Aberdeen Bank (North Sea) in 1983 and its relationship to environmental conditions. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci., 56: 2051-2061. doi:10.1139/cjfas-56-11-2051

Cushing, D.H. – 1992. A short history of the Downs stock of herring. ICES J. Mar. Sci., 49: 437-443. doi:10.1093/icesjms/49.4.437

Dickey-Collas, M., R.D.M. Nash and J. Brown. – 2001. The location of spawning of Irish Sea Herring (Clupea harengus). J. Mar. Biol. Ass. UK., 81: 713-714.

Fox, C.J. – 2001. Recent trends in stock-recruitment of Blackwater herring (Clupea harengus L.) in relation to larval production. ICES J. Mar. Sci., 58: 750-762. doi:10.1006/jmsc.2001.1063

Glover, R.S. – 1957. An ecological survey of the drift-net herring fishery off the north-east coast of Scotland. Part II: The planktonic environment of the herring. Bull. Mar. Ecol., 5: 1-43.

Groeger, J., D. Schnack and N. Rohlf. – 2001. Optimisation of survey design and calculation procedure for the international herring larvae survey in the North Sea. Arch. Fish. Mar. Res., 49 (2): 103-116.

Heath, M. – 1993. An evaluation and review of the ICES Herring Larval Surveys in the North Sea and adjacent waters. Bull. Mar. Sci., 53(2): 795-817.

Hempel, G. and D. Schnack – 1971. Larval abundance on spawning grounds of banks and downs herring. Rapp. P.-v. Réun. Cons. Int. Explor. Mer, 180: 94-98.

Hodgson, W.C. – 1957. The herring and its fishery. London, Routledge and Kegan Paul.

ICES. – 1997. Report of the study group on the precautionary approach to fisheries management. ICES C.M. 1997/Assess:7.

ICES. – 2006. Report of the planning group on herring surveys. ICES C.M. 2006/LRC:04, 239 pp.

ICES. – 2008a. Report of the planning group on herring surveys. ICES C.M. 2008/LRC:01, 256 pp.

ICES. – 2008b. Report of the herring assessment working group for the area south of 62°N. ICES C.M. 2008/ACOM:02.

MacCall, A.D. – 1990. Dynamic Geography of Marine Fish Populations. University of Washington Press, Washington.

McPherson, A.A., Stephenson, R.L., O’Reilly, P.T., Jones, M.W., and Taggart, C.T. – 2001. Genetic diversity of coastal Northwest Atlantic herring populations: implications for management. J. Fish Biol, 59A: 356-370. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8649.2001.tb01396.x

McQuinn, I.H. – 1997. Metapopulations and the Atlantic herring. Rev. Fish Biol. Fish., 7: 297-329. doi:10.1023/A:1018491828875

Melvin, G.D. and R.L. Stephenson. – 2007. The dynamics of a recovering fish stock: Georges Bank herring. ICES J. Mar. Sci., 64: 69-82.

Nash, R.D.M., M. Dickey-Collas and S.P. Milligan. – 1998. Descriptions of the Gulf VII/Pro-Net and MAFF/Guildline unencased highspeed plankton samplers. J. Plankton Res., 20: 1915-1926. doi:10.1093/plankt/20.10.1915

Nash, R.D.M. and M. Dickey-Collas. – 2005. The influence of life history dynamics and environment on the determination of year class strength in North Sea herring (Clupea harengus L.). Fish. Oceanogr., 14: 279-291. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2419.2005.00336.x

Nash, R.D.M., M. Dickey-Collas and L.T. Kell. – 2009. Stock and recruitment in North Sea herring (Clupea harengus); compensation and depensation in the population dynamics. Fish. Res., 95: 88-97. doi:10.1016/j.fishres.2008.08.003

Payne M.R., E.M.C. Hatfield, M. Dickey-Collas, T. Falkenhaug, A. Gallego, J. Gröger, P., Licandro, M. Llope, P. Munk, C. Röckmann, J.O. Schmidt and R.D.M. Nash. – 2009. Recruitment in a changing environment: the 2000s North Sea herring recruitment failure. ICES J Mar Sci., 66: 272-277. doi:10.1093/icesjms/fsn211

Postuma, K.H. and J.J. Zijlstra. – 1974. Larval abundance in relation to stock size, spawning potential and recruitment in North Sea herring. In: J.H.S. Blaxter (ed.), The early life history of fish, pp. 113-128. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

Saville, A. and R.S. Bailey. – 1980. The assessment and management of the herring stocks in the North Sea and to the west of Scotland. Rapp. Proc.-Verb. Réun. Cons. Int. L’Éxplor. Mer, 177: 112-142.

Shelton, P.A., A.F. Sinclair, G.A. Chouinard and R. Mohn. – 2006. Fishing under low productivity conditions is further delaying recovery of Northwest Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua). Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci., 63: 235-238. doi:10.1139/f05-253

Simmonds, E.J. – 2007. Comparison of two periods of North Sea herring stock management: success, failure, and monetary value. ICES J. Mar. Sci., 64: 686-692. doi:10.1093/icesjms/fsm045




How to Cite

Schmidt JO, van Damme CJ, Röckmann C, Dickey-Collas M. Recolonisation of spawning grounds in a recovering fish stock: recent changes in North Sea herring. scimar [Internet]. 2009Oct.30 [cited 2022Oct.7];73(S1):153-7. Available from: