The 2015-2016 Pacific Herring season in San Francisco Bay ended with a below-average spawning biomass estimate of 14,900 tons. The historical average is 50,300 tons (1979-present). This is 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 that resulted in low ocean productivity. Herring populations are highly variable and have reached similar levels over the last decade, with rapid recovery as ocean conditions improve. The graph above shows population levels and the proportion of commercial catch over time.
There were 13 spawn events throughout 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 11 commercial herring fishery vessels that participated in the fishery landed 493 tons of herring. This is approximately 66 percent of the 750 ton gill net quota for the season.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife staff are currently working on finalizing the 2015-2016 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 for Pacific Herring in California. Efforts are currently underway to begin this two year process. A few of the primary objectives of the fishery management plan include: developing a harvest control rule and permit structure review, strengthening ecosystem-based management efforts, identifying habitat concerns and eliminating the annual rulemaking process for quota setting. A fishery management plan mailing list is currently being developed for interested parties. If you would like more information or to become involved, please contact Ryan Bartling, Environmental Scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
post by Ryan Bartling, CDFW Environmental Scientist