Raw Herring/Hollandse Nieuwe

| 28th June 2013
Alex Macbeth reviews a film which examines why only two herring vessels remain fishing under the Dutch flag

For thousands of years, Dutch fishermen have been catching one of Holland's prime exports: New Dutch Herring. Whole communities and rituals grew around the seasonal trade.

Raw Herring follows two Dutch boats - Wiron 5 and Wiron 6 - the last of dozens that once carried the Dutch flag.

The boats zigzag across the North Sea, searching for schools of herring. But as the Wiron vessels revisit old latitude and longitude co-ordinates once abundant with fish, the North Sea's depleted herring stock becomes apparent. Search after search yields no catch.

"The Norwegians get most of the herring these days," proclaims one fisherman in the Wiron 5 canteen, where many of the fishermen drink and laugh the day away, awaiting news of fish from on-deck.

The boats travel North, South, East and West, returning to old sites like ‘Silverpit Crater,' only to return with empty nets.

But the herring are not the only threatened entity in the film: the fishermen's culture, which has been the backbone of Dutch port communities like Scheveningen for centuries, is also in danger of extinction. Many fathers still take their boys on the boats to learn the trade, but the tradition is threatened by cheaper processing techniques elsewhere.

A quaint yet timely portrait of a trade in decline.

Raw Herring, Netherland, 2013. Dir: Leonard Retel Helmrich and Hetty Naajkens-Retel Helmrich.

Alex Macbeth is a freelance journalist and filmmaker based in Berlin.



More from this author


The Ecologist has a formidable reputation built on fifty years of investigative journalism and compelling commentary from writers across the world. Now, as we face the compound crises of climate breakdown, biodiversity collapse and social injustice, the need for rigorous, trusted and ethical journalism has never been greater. This is the moment to consolidate, connect and rise to meet the challenges of our changing world. The Ecologist is owned and published by the Resurgence Trust. Support The Resurgence Trust from as little as £1. Thank you. Donate now.