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.
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.
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.
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
Over the last couple of weeks two spawn events were reported around the bay. The Point Richmond spawn lasted for several days beginning on the 16th and a new spawn started this week in the South Bay near the San Mateo Bridge.
The commercial fleet was also active in the area between the bridge and Coyote Point, catching 75 tons of herring. A new school appears to have just moved into the North Bay. Fish were metered in the Sausalito Channel and off Peninsula Point over the last couple of days. The school is likely staging for a new spawn event along the Marin shoreline. Maybe just in time for the Herring Festival this weekend, details below.
To date the commercial fishery has landed a total of 315 tons for the odd platoon and another 30 tons for the even platoon. The total gill net quota for the 2016 season is 750 tons, 360 tons for the Odd platoon and 390 tons for the Even platoon.
This weekend on Sunday January 31st, the annual Sausalito Herring Festival will be held at Gabrielson Park (near the ferry terminal) from 11am-330pm. CA Fish and Wildlife staff will be present to answer questions about the herring fishery and explain the science behind management of this important forage fish.