Atlantic herring are a coastal pelagic fish that have been found schooling in numbers upwards of several billion fish. They are found on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean; in the Northwest Atlantic they are found on the continental shelf and coastal waters from Labrador to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
Herring are a small fish that is silvery in color with a bluish or greenish blue back. They have a slender body with a round belly and a forked tail. Small fresh herring have a light delicate flavor while larger herring have a fuller, oilier flavour. The majority of herring in the United States and Canada is canned, pickled or smoked.
In Nova Scotia and Eastern Maine, Atlantic herring begin spawning as early as August while in the Southern Gulf of Maine, Georges Banks and Nantucket Shoals the spawning occurs from October to November. Herring eggs are very sticky and are laid on rock, gravel or sand bottoms and sometimes directly on marine vegetation. Each female herring can produce between 30,000 to 20,000 eggs which hatch within seven to 10 days depending on the temperature of the water. By the time spring rolls around the herring have grown into juveniles and begin to form large schools that travel the coastal waters during the summer. Adults are mature at the age of four and can live upwards of 15 years. These adult herring feed on zooplankton, krill and fish larvae while they themselves are heavily preyed upon by sharks, seabirds, marine mammals and skates. Atlantic herring are a very important species in the northwest oceanic food chain with many species relying on their eggs for food as well.