Baltic herring is a fish with great historical importance, for not only the people of the Baltic region, but also within much of Northern Europe. Over time, fish stocks, like Nation-states, rise and fall and consequently the economic importance of herring has also waxed and waned.
Changes in technology and consumer preferences can impact people’s consumption patterns; the state of the environment can also effect the amount and manner of intake, as well.
Herring is healthy, full of omega-3 fatty acids- essential fats that also play an important role in normal brain development and function. Yet, like many other food products such as eggs and meat, it also contain traces of dioxin. Due to the dioxin, governmental health departments have set regulations on the size of fish which can be consumed, and limits on the recommended individual allowance, especially for women and children. A consequence of this is an impact on how the fish is harvested, sold, and marketed to consumers. This, in turn, negatively impacts fishers, producers, and communities previously dependent on harvesting and selling herring.
The presence of toxins such as dioxin decreases the attractiveness of the Baltic herring for consumers. Limited exposure to herring and limited experience eating and preparing the fish, impacts its role in culture and society.
With these challenges, how important is Baltic herring for Baltic Sea coastal cultures today?
“Heeringas” presents data from fieldwork conducted in four EU Baltic States: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, and Sweden. The research focused on the (non-economic!) value of Baltic herring today, placing it within its environmental, sociocultural, and governance contexts.
In contemporary times, herring and fishing cannot be said to be of vital, economic importance in terms of nation states’ GDP. Nevertheless, fishing – and herring fishing- is important in particular coastal regions and for many cultural subgroups. The importance, value, and worth of herring can be seen personally, culturally, economically, and aesthetically.