Herring FMP Development Underway


Dear Stakeholders and Interested Parties:

Pacific herring supports a historically and culturally important fishery in California, particularly in San Francisco Bay. It’s also a critically important forage species for a wide suite of predators, including seabirds, marine mammals, and commercially and recreationally important fisheries. Management of the fishery has been precautionary in recent years with a high level of collaboration between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the fishing industry and the conservation community. There is however a need to update the existing management structure to one that is more efficient, and conforms more closely to the requirements of the Marine Life Management Act (MLMA). To achieve this, CDFW has partnered with commercial fishery representatives and members of the conservation community, forming the Pacific Herring Steering Committee (Committee), to develop a Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Pacific herring in California.

The goal of the FMP will be to formalize a strategy for Pacific herring management that will be responsive to environmental and socioeconomic changes, using a decision-making process that preserves the sustainability of the fishery while considering the entire ecosystem. The MLMA requires that management changes be based on both the best available science and stakeholder input. The Committee has identified a number of management objectives to be addressed in the herring FMP, including:

  • Modernize the limited entry permit system for the commercial herring fishery.
  • Streamline and update existing herring regulations where possible.
  • Develop a Harvest Control Rule for the San Francisco Bay fishery that provides for a sustainable fishery and includes ecosystem considerations, while managing risk with precaution.
  • Develop regulations for the recreational herring fishery.
  • Describe habitat considerations, including requirements, stressors, and protection measures.
  • Develop collaborative research opportunities to monitor and assess herring populations in Tomales Bay, Humboldt Bay and Crescent City Harbor.

CDFW is inviting stakeholders and interested individuals to participate in the public scoping process as a means of informing the development of the FMP. This notice serves as an opportunity to be included on the electronic mailing list for future public meeting events and FMP updates. If you wish to provide input on the scope of the proposed FMP or to be notified of future opportunities for involvement, please submit your comments by September 30, 2016 via email or regular mail to the addresses below.

1) Email: HerringFMP@wildlife.ca.gov
2) Mail:
California Department of Fish and Wildlife   Attn: Ryan Bartling
5355 Skylane Blvd., Suite B
Santa Rosa CA 95403-1045

2015-16 Herring Season Overview

The 2015-16 Pacific herring season in San Francisco Bay ended with a below average spawning biomass estimate of 14,900 tons. The historical average equals 50, 300 tons (1979-present) and this was the second year of below average herring returns. The low estimates for the past two seasons are attributed to poor oceanographic conditions due to high sea surface temperatures resulting in low ocean productivity. Herring populations are highly variable and have reached similar levels over the last decade; with rapid recovery as ocean conditions improved. The graph below shows population levels and the proportion of commercial catch over time.


San Francisco Bay Pacific Herring Biomass Estimates 1979-2016

There were 13 spawn events through the season starting in late-November and ending in mid-March. The spawn areas included; Richardson Bay, Marin County shoreline, San Francisco Waterfront, Coyote Point, San Mateo Bridge and Point Richmond.


San Francisco Bay Spawn Area Map 2015-16

The commercial herring fishery landed 493 tons by the 11 vessels that participated.  This was approximately 66% of the 750 ton gill net quota for the season.

CDFW staff are currently working on finalizing the San Francisco Bay Annual Season Summary which will be available on the State-Managed California Commercial Pacific Herring Fishery Web Page later this summer.

In other news the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in collaboration with the fishing and conservation community is working to develop a Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Pacific herring in California. Efforts are currently underway to begin this 2 year process. A few of the primary objectives of the FMP include: developing a harvest control rule,  permit structure review, strengthen ecosystem based management efforts, identify habitat concerns and eliminating the annual rulemaking process for quota setting. An FMP mailing list is currently being developed for interested parties. If you would like more information or to become involved, please contact Ryan Bartling, CDFW Environmental Scientist.

San Francisco Bay Commercial Herring Season Closes Today


CDFW Scientific Diver- Point Richmond

At noon today the San Francisco Bay commercial gill net herring fishery closed for the 2015-16 season.  The season total was 493 tons landed by approximately 11 vessels.  The gill net quota for the season was 750 tons.

Department scientific divers were able to get out last week and finish our annual vegetation dive surveys. These surveys are used in the calculations for spawning biomass estimates the Department produces each year.  A final biomass estimate will be available in early April.

The stormy weather has kept us off the bay this week but no new spawns have been detected or reported. We will be back on the water early next week as the weather begins to settle down.

Sausalito Herring Spawn

Herring once again moved into Richardson Bay and spawned along the Sausalito waterfront this week. A school moved in on Monday-Tuesday and almost immediately began to spawn, bringing along the usual flurry of marine mammals and birds looking for a herring meal. The commercial fleet was also active, landing just over 90 tons of herring.


Herring Fleet at Dawn- View from Sausalito

This brings the season total to 493 tons of commercially landed herring. Things do however appear to be winding down for the year and we only expect one or two smaller spawns to wrap up the season. At present we have recorded 12 spawn events around San Francisco Bay, the typical amount of activity we see in a season. Surveys will continue through March so there maybe more to come.

Herring visit Point Richmond again!

CDFW staff have been busy running around the bay assessing herring spawn areas and estimating egg densities.


Lab work includes removing and weighing eggs from eelgrass to estimate herring biomass.

Since the last post we recorded a new spawn in Richardson Bay which lasted for several days from January 28 to February 1.  Over this past weekend another spawn started at Point Richmond extending northwest toward Point Molate.  During the same time period herring spawned in Marin at Keil Cove and Belvedere Cove.

The commercial fleet was also active this week landing approximately 40 tons, bringing the total catch for the Odd platoon to 356 tons of a 360 ton quota.  The Odd platoon is now closed for the season and the Even platoon will continue to fish until the end of the season (March 11) or until their quota is reached.  To date the Even platoon has caught 44 tons of a 390 ton quota.

No new schools were detected in the bay during spawn and population surveys this week. That however can change at any time and CDFW will continue monitoring the bay through March.


Spawn area near Point Molate