The Herring are here! The Herring are here!

While I was flying down to look at the dry dock preparations at Pier 70 I noticed that there was a lot of activity in the Bay right near the Ferry Building.  Upon closer inspection I discovered that the little boats and swarms of gulls and bobbing seals were all there because the Herring were in the midst of their annual run for spawning into San Francisco Bay. The gulls were trying to snatch the Herring out of the nets of the trawlers and the seals were trying to avoid the boats and nets and catch the Herring in the water.  It was quite a sight . . . chaos was the order of the day.

Cupid's Bow and the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero next to San Francisco Bay

I stopped at Cupid’s Bow to look at the scene and was amazed at the number of boats and gulls.  I like to perch on the tip of the Bow or on top of the arrow to be able to rest and look down on the Bay. How come none of my so called ‘friends’ and relatives didn’t bother to say anything to me about this spawning run? I like fresh Herring as much as any other Gull.  The crew members on the boat were working very hard to haul in the nets and the birds were swirling around looking for fish that escape the boat.

Herring boat and the avian squadron during the Herring run.

In any case this is a good thing for the avian squadron and it provides some variety in our diet to supplement the bread and junk we scavenge at Fisherman’s Wharf.  Unfortunately the Herring run is usually short and may occur at night when we are not out cruising around.  If it is over now for this year and I miss it that is OK too because they will be back next year.

Editor’s Note:  The Pacific Herring ( Clupea pallasii) are a keystone species that spawns in San Francisco Bay each year in January or February. Each female may provide as many as 20,000 eggs which float free in the water in area where eel grass and other sources of support exist.  Herring are harvested by specially designed boats and net trawlers.  The harvested fish may be used as salmon bait, fish oil, fish meal or extraction of the roe for resale.  There is also a Herring run in Richardson Bay and a rejuvenated run in Half Moon Bay.  In San Francisco Bay it does not extend south beyond Candlestick Point probably because of the lack of appropriate habitat.  

For more information on the wildlife in San Francisco Bay and the annual events like the Pacific Herring run visit our web site that tells more about the SS Jeremiah O’Brien. 


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