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Department of Fish and Game

Contacts: Eric Larson, Bays and Estuaries Ecosystem Coordinator,
(650) 631-6788;; Mary Patyten, Research
Writer, (831) 649-2804;

Fish and Game Commission Gives San Francisco Bay Herring Fishermen a Reduced Quota and Shorter Season for 2003-2004

The California Fish and Game Commission has voted to provide a herring fishery for San Francisco Bay with a shortened season and a reduced quota for 2003-04.

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) had provided two options for the Commission to consider. The DFG's preferred option would have closed all herring fisheries in San Francisco Bay for the 2003-04 season. The option the Commission adopted will provide an overall quota of 2,200 tons for these fisheries. In addition, the season for the roe herring (gill net) fishery has been shortened by approximately one month.

More than 90 percent of the state's herring resource spawns in San Francisco Bay. Concern for the depressed status of this stock led the DFG to recommend closing the commercial herring fishery as a protective measure for the 2003-04 season.

The Department's management strategy for this fishery has been to harvest age 4 and older herring, and to avoid the harvest of age 2 and 3 herring, most of which are first-time spawners. DFG data, which has been collected annually for the last 30 years, indicated there has been a decline in the number of age 4 and older herring that are needed to support the fishery since the El Niņo event of 1997-1998. This decline in older herring has been accompanied by an increased catch of younger herring (age 2 and 3). Overall, the population has been weak since the 1997-1998 El Niņo event, remaining well below average for the last six seasons.

In addition to Department data, an independent, scientific review of the status of the herring stock was conducted through California Sea Grant. The scientists who participated in the review included three experts in the field of fish population dynamics, including a Canadian herring expert with 25 years experience. The key finding of this review is that the San Francisco Bay herring population has been reduced to a level of roughly 20 percent of its unfished level and is presently at or near the lowest abundance observed since the early 1970s. The review also recommended that a rebuilding policy should be implemented.

Although the adopted 2,200 ton quota for the fishery for 2003-04 is not likely to help rebuild the herring stock, it is believed that it should not cause a further decline in the population.

The proposed herring fishery regulations for the 2003-2004 herring season, and other information about the herring fishery, is available on the Department Web site at  Also, visit the Commission's Web site at  


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