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Marine Science



Shetland herring wanted for new scientific study. The NAFC Marine Centre UHI is asking Shetland fishermen for help with a new project to determine the identity of herring found in Shetland waters.

The fishermen are being asked to collect samples of herring caught around Shetland during the winter and spring so that their identity can be investigated.

There are several populations of herring in the north-east Atlantic. Around Shetland, North Sea autumn-spawning herring are present and support a valuable commercial fishery. These herring are observed to undergo sexual maturation between March and August, ready to spawn in September. Yet there have also been observations in Shetland waters of other herring which instead undergo maturation in the winter months, to spawn early in the year.

NAFC Fisheries Scientist Dr Katie Brigden, who is leading the project, explained:

“while we are aware of previous fishing for ‘winter herring’ there is little documented information available, and the presence of these fish is of interest to science and industry – raising the question of a stock distribution which is potentially unknown and unaccounted for. There is a need to gather more information to confirm which population these ‘winter herring’ belong to.”

The new project is asking all fishermen in Shetland waters to look out for and retain any herring that are caught between December 2020 and April 2021 so that they can be biologically sampled and genetically identified. Any herring caught should be kept on ice or frozen, with details recorded of the date and location of capture. Fishermen are asked to contact the NAFC Marine Centre for the samples to be collected or to arrange drop-off (herring@uhi.ac.uk, 01595 772000).

In addition to collecting samples, fishermen are also being asked to complete a short questionnaire (available at Questionnaire: Identification of herring in Shetland waters – https://bit.ly/2JqShf2) to provide information on historical observations of winter herring around Shetland in order to better understand the spatial and temporal distribution of these fish.

Further Information

Full details of the project are available on the NAFC website at: www.nafc.uhi.ac.uk/research/pelagic/herring/.

For further information, please contact Dr Katie Brigden or Dr Shaun Fraser at the NAFC Marine Centre (herring@uhi.ac.uk, 01595 772000).