Atlantic Herring Biology and Research

Atlantic herring illustration by Roz Davis Designs, courtesy of the DMR Recreational Fisheries program and the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund

The Department of Marine Resources is responsible for monitoring the status of the Maine herring fishery and works in cooperation with the National Marine Fisheries Service to assess the status of the U.S. Atlantic coast herring stock, which extends from Virginia to New Brunswick. DMR biologists process herring samples obtained from the commercial fishery and compile landings and catch statistics provided by the fishermen and the herring industry. This information is combined with trawl survey abundance indices to estimate stock size and to provide advice for management purposes. These assessments indicate that the entire Atlantic coast stock complex of herring is very large and under-utlilized, but stock size is believed to be much larger offshore on Georges Bank than it is in the Gulf of Maine where most of the fishing takes place.

DMR staff have also conducted acoustic surveys (below) on spawning aggregations of herring in the Gulf of Maine in recent years. These surveys are designed to determine the distribution and abundance of adult herring while they are on their respective spawning grounds and thereby provide more direct and useful information to managers which will allow them to protect individual spawning populations of herring in the Gulf of Maine.

Acoustic echogram

Acoustic echogram showing mid-water aggregations of herring along a 5.5 mile transect across Jeffreys Ledge on the night of October 10, 1995. Color scale of echo intensity is shown on the right (blue = weak echo, red = strong echo) and depth in meters on the left. Bottom echo (continuous red line) shows up twice as primary and secondary echo. Expanded bottom echo below echogram shows bottom and fish within two meters of bottom: red and yellow echoes are probably groundfish and blue and green echoes are herring. Select the picture for a larger view (44 kb jpg file).

Herring gonad stages

View several stages of herring gonad development here. Select the picture for a larger view (488 kb jpg file).

For more information, contact Matt Cieri.