Pacific Herring (Clupea pallasii) - MMFS

Science Center Objects

Species Studied

Pacific Herring (Clupea pallasii)

Specific-Pathogen-Free Pacific herring

Different size and age classes of experimental Specific-Pathogen-Free Pacific herring reared at the Marrowstone Marine Field Station. Credit: Paul Hershberger, USGS. (Public domain)

As members of the forage fish community, Pacific herring represent integral components to all trophic levels of the food web, and therefore represent excellent biological indicators of marine ecosystem health.  The estimated carbon contribution of herring spawning products to the Strait of Georgia during the spring spawning period is greater than maximum estimates of primary productivity. Herring eggs and larvae are used as a primary food source for invertebrates including crabs, medusae, ctenophores, chaetognaths, and amphipods; fish including juvenile salmonids, sturgeon, smelt, and surfperches; and marine gulls and diving birds.  Juvenile and adult herring serve as the primary prey for marine pinnipeds including harbor seals and sea lions, and finfishes including Coho salmon, Chinook salmon, Pacific cod, Pacific whiting, lingcod, and Pacific halibut.           

Many marine populations of pelagic forage fish, including Pacific herring, undergo large oscillations in abundance, even in the absence of commercial fishing or human exploitation.  Ongoing research with Pacific herring at the Marrowstone Marine Field Station (MMFS) is intended to assess whether infectious and parasitic diseases may contribute to some of these observed abundance patterns. Colonies of specific pathogen-free Pacific herring are reared and maintained at the MMFS for use as experimental animals to address these complex questions.