Help, a false herring!
by Tania Oudegeest
The story goes that there are false herrings swimming in the Oceanium; should visitors have to worry about that?“No, not at all” says marine biologist Michaël Laterveer. “We use the name ‘false herring’ to point out the difference between the herring that is found in the North Sea (Clupea harengus) and the herring swimming in the Atlantic Ocean (Harengula clupeola)“.
shoals and farts
The shoal of false herrings is swimming in our large shark tank. Like a dance group they are continuously wheeling, changing places all the time. The same as they always do in the wild. For hunters this behaviour makes it difficult to catch an individual little fish. Catching a herring from the shoal is almost impossible. Away from the shoal the individual herring is vulnarable and an easy snack for predatory fish.
In daylight all herrings can see their neighbours and will stay close to each other in the shoal. All fish keep the same distance from their neighbours and are swimming in the same direction. To reach a perfect choreography of a shoal that moves as one individual only eye contact is not enough. The animals sense each other almost literally because they produce and perceive sounds. In the dark, shoalfish are also able to stay close to each other. But then they need more than one organ to orientate. At night they cannot see each other. To find out where the others are and which direction they will choose they break wind by forcefully ejecting air from their anal duct. Tiny bubbles are released from the anus producing a crackling noise. They may even confuse the sharks …
herring or bloater?
Not only sharks have an appetite for the odd herring but every year many people are looking forward to the opening of the herring season. A bloater is a selected smoked herring. Herrings can also be steamed or fried but most people prefer the “Hollandse Nieuwe”. “Hollandse Nieuwe” is a fresh herring of two to three years old, caught between May and July and of a certain size. The fish are gutted on board the fishing boat and then lightly salted. The herring is then frozen in so that one can buy 'fresh' herring the year round.
Not everyone likes fresh herring. The Swedes prefer fermented (gradualy decomposed) herring. The little fish are left to ferment in big casks and are then canned. At a certain moment the lid of the can will bulge because it is under much pressure. Before opening cover the can with a cloth, when opening the can you will hear the pressure in the can depress and you will smell rotting fish. For many this smell will not be very inviting, but the Swedes love it.
Ah well, everyone to his taste …..
herring in danger
Because of an increase of fishing capacity and improved fishing techniques more and more herring was caught during the twentieth century. Moreover in the thirties a market for fish meal for the bio-industry came about. Towards the end of the sixties it became clear that the herring stocks were declining rapidly. Fortunately in time measures have been taken by almost stopping the herring fishery. A setback for the fishermen, but a necessity. Since then a herring quota has been issued for the fishermen and undersized fish has to be thrown back. At the same time the conception of marine biologists was taken more seriously. Gradually fishery policy is growing towards sustainment so that future generations will still be able to catch fish.
cultivated fish is fed with wild fish
So far in most cases it is better to buy fish caught in the wild provided it is certified fish.
The Marine Stewardship Council aims at sustainable fishing practices. This organisation issues a seafood certification so that the consumers knows that the fish has been caught in such a way that no insuperable damage to fish stocks and ecosystems has been done. Unfortunately so far consumers are not very aware of this certification system. In the last few years the Dutch herring has already been certified but herring from the Sea of Japan near Hokkaido has almost vanished by overfishing. Within half a century we humans were the cause of this situation. So it is important that the consumer pays attention what he finds in his shopping trolley. As soon as the fisherman learns that the consumer is worried about declining fish stocks it is likely that he tries to earn a MCS fishery certification. Ask the fishmonger whether he has a MSC certificate. Many fishmongers will tell you that they do not have a certificate and that this is not necessary because they are selling cultivated fish meaning that the wild fish will keep out of harm’s way. But that is not true because cultivated fish is often fed with wild fish! For feeding one kilogram of cultivated fish at least one kilogram of wild fish is needed.
Seafood Watch Pocket Guide
How to find the right information when you should like to eat cultivated fish? The North Sea Foundation (Stichting Noordzee) has designed a very handy little card: the Seafood Watch Pocket Guide. Easy to keep in your wallet and easy to read.
The Seafood Watch Pocket Guide enables you to make the correct choice of wild fish or cultivated fish. If you are looking for a fish species that is not on the list you may find it on www.goedevis.nl.