Draft 2014 Supplemental Environmental Document Available

The Pacific herring commercial regulations are updated every year. In addition, potential environmental impacts of the fishery are addressed each year in an environmental document, in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Both the regulatory and CEQA processes provide the public with several opportunities each year to provide input to CDFW and the Commission on the management of California’s Pacific herring resource.

Please visit the State Managed California Commercial Herring Fishery page to read the 2014 Draft Supplemental Environmental Document for Pacific Herring. The 45 day public comment period closes on May 19, 2014 at 5:00pm; all comments must be received by the California Fish and Game Commission at that time.

 

Commerical Herring Fleet Fishing Marin County Area

Commerical Herring Fleet Fishing Marin County Area

2013-14 Pacific Herring Season Wrap Up

As another Pacific herring season draws to a close the Department would like to take this opportunity to provide an overview of the spawning biomass and catch information for the season. The spawning biomass estimate for the 2013-14 season is 60,600 tons, which exceeds the historical average (1970-80 season to present) of 52,300 tons.

1979-2014 Pacific Herring Biomass Estimates and Commerical Catch

1979-2014 Pacific Herring Biomass Estimates and Commerical Catch

This is the fourth consecutive year of above-average spawning biomass and the fifth consecutive year of improved spawning biomass estimates since the historic low during the 2008-09 season. The Pacific herring commercial fishing season closed on March 14th this year and a total of 3,198 tons or approximately 93 percent of the of 3,442 ton herring quota was caught by the fleet.

Pacific herring commerical fishing vessel

Pacific Herring Commerical Fishing Vessel

Thirteen spawning events were recorded during the 2013-14 season, primarily in the northern areas of San Francisco Bay and into San Pablo Bay. Spawning events occurred from as far north as Point San Pedro and south to Coyote Point. The first recorded spawn of the season occurred November 22, 2013, and the last recorded spawn occurred on March 4-5, 2014.

2013-14 Pacific herring spawn area map

2013-14 San Francisco Bay Herring Spawning Areas

There were several large spawning events in the Richardson Bay and smaller events to the east along the Marin county shore and at Point Richmond. The spawning biomass for the season was temporally and spatially well distributed. This type of distribution helps prevent over exploitation of a single spawning wave. It should be noted that the spawn at Point San Pedro could be considered outside the normal herring spawning range. Generally, herring do not spawn northeast of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. However, given the drought conditions experienced during the winter of 2013-14, herring were likely searching for lowered salinities in other areas of the San Francisco Bay estuary for spawning.

Please follow us again next season as the Department works to collect herring fishery data and manage this important California forage species.

California Sealions Fishing for Herring

California Sealions Fishing for Herring

 

Welcome to the Department of Fish and Wildlife Pacific Herring Blog

Thank you for reading the Department of Fish and Wildlife Pacific herring blog. Here you will find information on recent spawning activity, including photos and video clips documenting the work of the Department. You can follow the Department staff as they work to complete the annual herring population estimates for San Francisco Bay. In season, there will also be weekly updates on commercial landings by the herring fleet and important information related to the CEQA process and annual changes to regulations that are approved by the Fish and Game Commission. You may also visit our Department of Fish and Wildlife State-Managed California Commercial Herring Fishery web page for more information.

For those that are less familiar with Pacific herring in California and the work of the Department, here is a quick primer to get you started.

Pacific herring (CDFW)

Pacific herring (CDFW)

Biology and Life History

Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) are a small schooling fish found throughout the coastal zone from California around the Pacific Rim to Korea. They are dark blue to olive on their backs, fading to silver on their sides and bellies. They are plankton feeders, primarily feeding on copepods, amphipods, fish larvae, and molluscs. In California herring are found offshore during spring and summer and migrate inshore to bays and estuaries to spawn from November through April. Pacific herring become sexually mature at 2-3 years of age and spawn every year after reaching maturity (up to 8 yrs in SF Bay). Males release milt into the water column to begin fertilization. Females extrude adhesive eggs (up to 20,000) on a variety of substrates including; subtidal vegetation, rocks, pier pilings and rip rap. Herring young-of-the year remain in the bay through the summer before entering the ocean in the early fall.

Fishery Management

Commerical herring vessel at Pt San Pablo (CDFW)

Commerical herring vessel at Pt San Pablo (CDFW)

The Department has managed the commercial Pacific herring fishery in San Francisco Bay since its inception in 1972. Biological and enforcement staff work closely with the industry to provide for a sustainable fishery. The Department conducts annual surveys of the spawning herring population in San Francisco Bay as part of its ongoing monitoring and management of the fishery. The Department also examines age structure, growth and general condition, biological aspects of the catch, and environmental conditions. These data serve as the basis for establishing fishing quotas for the next season. Regulatory decisions each season are the responsibility of the Fish and Game Commission.

Forage and the Fishery

Herring spawn on eelgrass (CDFW)

Herring spawn on eelgrass (CDFW)

Herring are an important forage species for ocean and bay food webs. Herring eggs, larvae, young-of-the-year and adults provide a food source for a variety of birds, mammals, fishes, and invertebrates.  The San Francisco Bay population supports a valuable fishery for herring roe, or kazunoko, a traditional Japanese delicacy. A smaller herring-eggs-on-kelp (HEOK) fishery suspends giant kelp from rafts on which herring spawn. The egg-coated kelp blades are brined and exported to Japan (known as komochi or kazunoko kombu). San Francisco Bay also supports a limited commercial fresh fish and recreational fishery. As with most coastal pelagic species, herring populations fluctuate depending on a variety of factors, including food availability, spawning conditions, competition and predation. Many aspects of the commercial fishery also change with time. Over the years the value and participation in the roe fishery has fluctuated, but it appears to have stabilized at a very low level when compared to historical benchmarks. Recently, there has been a renewed interest in a fresh fish market for herring, driven by a desire for a local and sustainable food source. The Department will continue to manage this important fishery, ensuring sustainability and working to help maintain herring’s important role in both ocean and bay ecosystems.