Certifier : 
Lloyds Register (Acoura)
Certified status : 
Certified since : 
16 Jun 2008
Certificate expires : 
30 Jul 2023


Located in the north and central North Sea, from the south-west coast of Norway across to the Shetland Islands and the north-east coast of Scotland, this fishery is run by Swedish company Astrid Fiskexport and has been certified since 2008. 

Three vessels from 36 to 45 metres target the fish specifically to produce naturally fermented, cured maatjes herring. This requires fat individuals with no milk or roe, so the fishing takes place during a short season from mid-May until July. As well as being fat, the fish must have fed on small shrimp – the ‘red feed’ spewed out when a maatjes herring’s belly is pressed.

The herring are caught by pelagic purse seine, meaning contact with the seabed is avoided. Sonar and electronic fish-finding equipment help skippers find shoals of the correct species, density and size. The maatje herring’s own habits also help make the fishery sustainable. They tend to be found in ‘clean’ shoals comprising only pre-spawning virgin herring of the type required, with very few mackerel netted by mistake. Bycatch runs at less than two per cent, and there are no discards.

"We told our skippers, ‘If you don’t do this, if you don’t act responsibly and go for MSC certification, you won’t sell any fish in the future.’ All the supermarkets are saying they will only buy MSC fish. You have to look beyond your own nose tip, you have to look ahead many years."

- Werner Larsson, Manager, Astrid Fiskexport

Herring (Clupea harengus) image © Scandinavian Fishing Year Book