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.
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.
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.