Herring Home | Sale and Processing of herring

Changing economic circumstances post World War II

After the Second World War the trade in cured herring declined rapidly. There were 9000 gutters and packers in Scotland in 1920. By 1938 this number halved and after the war it dropped even more steeply. Economic changes were occurring. The rise in living standards that began after the First World War was continuing at home and in Europe. Rises in living standards led to a change in patterns of consumption. People had more money and a bigger variety of food was available. There were alternative protein sources such as chicken. Other sorts of fish were being eaten and the market for fresh fish grew enormously. More choice meant fewer people wanted to eat cured herring. Consumers also turned to more convenience foods, a pattern which has continued into the twenty-first century.

Fraserburgh purser unloads catch onto Klondyker, Ullapool, c1983

The once huge industry of curing herring has now disappeared. In the post war period plants for quick freezing and reduction of herring to meal were introduced, but without much success. Some other sectors of the market have fared better. New methods of preserving fish have become widespread. The most important of these are canning and freezing. There have been big improvements in the transport network. This has led to a huge growth in the market for fresh fish, including herring. Kippers are still made. The mechanisation of the splitting and gutting process helped to keep this sector competitive. There is a method of preserving herring called 'klondyking'. This is where herring were lightly salted onboard large factory ships and sent abroad for processing. It began in the 1890s and increased in the 1970s with large ships from Eastern Europe working mainly off the West Coast of Scotland. They purchased fresh herring from Scottish fishermen, but it involved only a small number if fishermen and prices were low. However, this sector too has declined. Herring stocks have also declined.

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