Norwegian herring outcompeting their Danish rivals

Love it or hate it, the Danish Christmas tradition stipulates one type of food must be present on the table, and that food is pickled herring.

For a country whose waters are abundant with this small species of fish, it might come as a surprise that the majority of pickled herring sold here comes from Norway.

Less than ten percent of the 15 million jars of pickled herring consumed each year are caught in Danish waters, according to the Danish Seafood Association. The reason is quite simple: Norwegian herring are much larger.

“Norway has the biggest herring and that is what the Danish consumer wants,” Jørgen Andersen, a factory foreman at the Lykkeberg Herring Company, told DR.

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It's not the size of the fish that matters
As a consequence, Danish fish handlers are forced to export the smaller Danish herring to countries such as Germany, Austria and Poland where it is considered a delicacy.

“It is a disappointing tradition seeing as the smaller herring has a much more refined taste,” remarked Peter Kongerslev, the CEO of Skagerak Pelatic.

Unfortunately it is not only the size of the herring that is causing problems. Being the 21st Century, Danish supermarkets only wish to sell fish carrying the MSC sustainability symbol.

But due to a technicality, Danish herring do not carry the symbol, even though they are caught in the same way as Norwegian herring, which do carry the symbol.

“Size is one thing, but the introduction of the MSC symbol has ruined everything,” said the head of Fiskernes Filetfabrik, Benny Christensen.