Research Output
Essential spawning grounds of Scottish herring: current knowledge and future challenges
  Scotland once had the largest herring fishery globally, generating local income, identity, and societal change. Following historic stock collapse, in spring 2018/2019 large herring shoals were observed on the west coast for the first time in decades, at a formerly important spawning ground. This highlights the urgency of maintaining historic (and contemporary) benthic spawning habitat, which these fish rely upon, in good condition. However, information on exact location, characteristics, and status of historic and contemporary spawning grounds, if existing, is not easily accessible. We searched over 1190 literature sources, dating back to 1884, using scientific databases and web-based searches, and ran a query for automated search of comprehensive historic reports. We present current knowledge on Scottish herring spawning grounds, retrieved through these searches and fisher interviews, maps showing historic and contemporary spawning grounds, and discuss challenges arising from the methods used to recognize these grounds. Knowledge gaps regarding location and environmental status of past and current spawning grounds, particularly relevant for Scotland’s west coast, are identified. Based on the importance of specific environmental and physical variables for herring reproductive success, we advocate the inclusion of essential spawning grounds into herring management plans. This will require additional data on spawning grounds, including historic local ecological knowledge rarely considered. An inclusive ecosystem-based approach to herring management would allow more targeted actions to conserve (and potentially restore) essential spawning habitat. More effective management strategies will also call for reversing the (global) issue of the disconnect between different stakeholder groups.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    09 April 2022

  • Publication Status:


  • DOI:


  • ISSN:


  • Funders:

    William Grant Foundation


Frost, M., & Diele, K. (2022). Essential spawning grounds of Scottish herring: current knowledge and future challenges. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries, 32, 721-744.



Clupea harengus; Eggs; Larvae; Habitat conservation/restoration; Local ecological knowledge; Ecosystem-based management

Monthly Views:

Available Documents
  • pdf
  • pdf

    Essential spawning grounds of Scottish herring: current knowledge and future challenges


    This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits
    use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any
    medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the
    original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The
    images or other third party material in this article are included
    in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated
    otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not
    included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your
    intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds
    the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly
    from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit

  • Downloadable citations