Herring - Silver of the Sea

Herring (clupea harengus) is only found in northern waters, and has from time immemorial been one the earth's most utilized marine resources. The fish move in immense shoals, and with its migratory paths well understood, the species was often caught in huge quantities. Despite this, the herring remained unreliable and unpredictable.

Ancient remains of human settlements show that herring was one of the main sources of nourishment for many European nations, thousands of years ago. This vitamin rich and healthy food was a true lifesaver for the poor, and a vital prop in the economies of world powers. The foundations of the British and Dutch empires are considered by many to have been built on herring fisheries and trade. Herring were considered so valuable that in 1673, Britain and Holland used their navies in a dispute over the control of the herring grounds. This is the only known case of a humble fish causing a bloody international conflict.

It was the Norwegians who eventually emerged as the world's leading herring fishermen, with Germany, France and Scotland also supporting extensive industries.

Legend tells us that the fish of the deep chose the herring as their king, inspired no doubt by the herring's graceful swimming and its sheer beauty when its massed shoals sparkle like silver through the ocean waves.

Icelanders have agreed with these old legends: as an indication of the value they put on herring, the fish have been called "silver of the sea", "diamond herring" and "Iceland's gold".

"God's gift" (Guðsgjöf), perhaps, best indicates their importance.

See here a video of a herring shoal.

See detailed information about the atlantic herring on Wikipeida.