San Francisco Bay Herring on the Menu

San Francisco Bay herring are small, versatile fish beloved by birds, sea lions, porpoises, and increasingly, local chefs and home cooks. Herring has an important place in the food chain for many creatures here in the Bay Area, and it’s special because it’s the last remaining commercial fishery in San Francisco Bay.

If you want to learn more about herring and sample some delectable herring dishes by local chefs, join Save The Bay in Sausalito on Sunday, February 9 for the 2nd Annual Sausalito Herring Festival. There will be music, food, local fishermen, and fun for all.  Make sure to stop by our photo booth, say hi, and have your picture taken with one of our Bay Creatures.

We’re thrilled to be able to celebrate herring season here in the Bay because we almost lost the fishery entirely a few years ago. But now the herring are back! And the catch is a good one, due in part to the fact that the Bay is cleaner and healthier than it’s been in the last 150 years.

“Living in the Bay Area we are so privileged to have access to an amazing amount of hyper-local fruits, vegetables and livestock”, said Douglas Bernstein, Executive Chef at Fish Restaurant in Sausalito. “I think people are starting to realize that our waters are also a source of an amazing amount of seasonal food stuffs, and at the beginning of each January we have access to a huge, affordable and versatile protein source that is literally visible from our back doors.”

Photo: Revo_1599
Photo: Revo_1599

Besides the pure joy of eating a truly local catch, there are plenty of reasons to add local Bay herring to your diet.

  • They’re good for you—Herring are high in healthy Omega-3 fatty acids and since they are small, short lived fish, they don’t accumulate environmental toxins.
  • They’re tasty and versatile—Herring are small, oily fish with a bold flavor. Think more sardine than sea bass. They lend themselves to any seasoning or cooking method including grilling, smoking, curing, pickling, or broiling.
  • They’re caught sustainably—Small-scale local fishermen net herring with little to no bycatch and no damage to the environment.
  • They’re back after a huge decline—The commercial fishery was closed in 2009 because of low numbers. Herring are on the upswing and still recovering. The quota was raised 30% from last year because of promising population numbers.

By eating Bay herring you’re supporting the future sustainability of the population here in SF Bay. That may seem counter-intuitive, but before herring became a star attraction on local menus, it was mostly fished for its roe, which is dried and shipped to Japan. Strict catch limits keep the herring plentiful for future years, and a strong local market for this delicacy keep our local fishermen in business. The Bay herring season runs roughly November through March.

Where to eat and buy herring: 

Retail: Call ahead for availability
Fish Restaurant in Sausalito has a retail fish counter (see below for restaurant dishes)
Monterey Fish Market in Berkeley
Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco also makes wonderful pickled herring in the deli
Siren SeaSA is a local, sustainable seafood CSA delivered to neighborhood pick-up locations and available through Good Eggs

Restaurants: a sampling of herring dishes recently spotted on local menus. Check menus for current dishes and availability

Fish Restaurant–pickled herring salad with little gems, pink lady apples and mint; pickled herring with shaved red beets, creme fraiche and fried seaweed; creamy potato soup with smoked herring, parsley and caraway; grilled whole herring on a stick served with soft pretzels and house-made mustard
NOPA—fried, pickled herring
Rich Table—marinated herring with bok choy and winter squash
Bar Tartine—pickled herring with creamed onions and sprouted rye
Peko Peko Popup Dinner—deep fried whole with kumquats and shallots
Beauty’s Bagels—pickled herring on bagels with cream cheese

Cooking it yourself? Local cooks recommend pickling and Japanese-style salt grilled herring from Japanese Farm Food. If you’re coming to the herring festival, be sure to try chef Dave Johnson’s herring paella. He’ll smoke the herring lightly and then prepare it in his impressive four-foot paella pans with garlic-tomato rice and lemony gremolata. Chef Dave is owner of Sausalito’s Davey Jones Deli.

Weekly roundup: January 10, 2014

Check out this week’s Weekly Roundup for breaking news affecting San Francisco Bay

7X7 1/4/14
The ultimate Sunday hike: The Albany bulb
Urban wasteland or artistic expression? Visit the Albany Waterfront Trail (aka the Albany Bulb) and decide for yourself. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a unique and eclectic place for exploration, contemplation and human observation. It’s also a great place to walk your dog and experience some of the most fabulous water-level views to be had in the Bay Area.
Read more>>

weekly roundup

San Francisco Chronicle 1/5/14
Appeals court upholds S.F. plastic bag ban as precedent
In the latest legal setback for plastic-bag makers, a state appeals court has issued a ruling upholding San Francisco’s ban on single-use plastic bags as a precedent for future cases.
Read more>>

San Jose Mercury News 1/6/14
Made up names doom San Jose ballot measure to overturn Styrofoam ban
The contentious drive to overturn San Jose’s ban on Styrofoam containers has failed after elections officials found more than half the signatures gathered to place the issue before voters were bogus — and many were just made up.
Read more>>

San Jose Mercury News 1/7/14
Editorial: Polystyrene foam ban stands in San Jose. Yay!
It’s tempting to lose faith in democracy when it seems like money is the only thing that talks. Then something happens — like the failure of the sleazy attempt to repeal San Jose’s ban on polystyrene foam food containers — that restores some faith in the system.
Read more>>

San Francisco Chronicle 1/9/14
They’re back – the Bay’s herring hordes return
Sea lions, porpoises and tens of thousands of birds are jockeying for position with fishermen this week as the annual herring run splashes into San Francisco Bay, a spectacular marine wildlife showcase that conservationists say is one of the largest in North America.
Read more>>

The Almanac 1/7/14
Can we rise to the challenge of rising sea levels?
Imagine a darkened bedroom around midnight. You’re lying there in the silence waiting for sleep to come. From the direction of the closet comes a soft scuffling noise. Curious and maybe a bit alarmed, you sit up, but carefully; you don’t want to draw attention to your presence. Holding your breath, you wait, your head at a slight angle, the better to hear whatever it is.
Read more>>

San Francisco Chronicle 1/9/14
Six Flags mommy dolphin practices baby whistle
Dolphins are known for their exquisite communication skills, but a late-term, pregnant dolphin at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo may be one of the first discovered vocalizing to her unborn baby.
Bella, a 9-year-old bottlenose, caused a double-take among her trainers a few months ago when they discovered her alone in a pool vocalizing her “baby whistle” – an individual sound that every mother dolphin uses to call her calf immediately after birth.
Read more>>

Weekly Roundup October 11, 2013

Daily Californian 10/6/13
Businesses Experience Smooth Implementation of County Plastic Bag Ban
City and county officials report that Alameda County’s single-use plastic bag ban has been successfully implemented without any major obstacles since it took effect in January.
While the ordinance requires businesses to keep exact records of paper bags purchased, store owners and employees report that the task has not been significantly detrimental to business operations. Many stores, including large chains and small businesses, report that the transition to phase out plastic bags was accompanied by either no inconveniences or only minor ones.
Read more>>


San Francisco Chronicle 10/9/13
Walk the Bay Takes Trip Across New Bay Bridge
The new east span of the Bay Bridge is up and carrying upward of 300,000 vehicles a day. You may have driven it, you may have cruised under it on BART or you may have missed it altogether. Now’s your chance to not just see the bridge, but to really see the bridge.
On Saturday, Walk San Francisco is partnering with California Walks, Walk Oakland Bike Oakland and Oakland Urban Paths for the inaugural Walk the Bay. We’ll lead you on a walk across the Bay Bridge. Well, almost across: The bridge’s pedestrian and bicycle path doesn’t yet touch down on Yerba Buena Island – and it won’t for a year or two – but we’ll be trekking over the bay nonetheless.
Read more>>

San Jose Mercury News 10/7/13
Thousands of Old Pilings to be Removed from San Francisco Bay
Thousands of derelict pilings soaked with creosote will be removed from San Francisco Bay in an effort to clean up an important habitat for Pacific herring.
The Marin Independent Journal reports that the state Coastal Conservancy will run a program to remove 33,000 bay pilings after receiving a $2 million grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
The pilings once supported fishing piers and boat launches.
Pacific herring remain the only commercially harvested fish inside the bay, and often use the pilings and other hard surfaces to spawn. Herring are also an important food for whales, birds and salmon.
Read more>>

Yale School of Forestry Report
Climate Change in the American Mind: Focus on California, Ohio, and Texas
Californians are more likely to be concerned about global warming than those in some other states. Majorities in each state say global warming is happening. This belief is most widespread in California (79%), but seven in ten in Colorado, Ohio, and Texas agree as well (70% in each).Over half of Californians say that, if global warming is happening, it is caused mostly by human activities (58%). About half of Ohioans (49%) and Coloradans (48%) agree. By contrast, fewer Texans (44%) say global warming is caused mostly by human activities, and 31% say it is caused mostly by natural changes in the environment. Californians are the most likely to say they are very or somewhat worried about global warming (63%), followed by Coloradans (59%). Ohioans are the least likely to express worry (52%), and nearly half (47%) say they are not very or not at all worried about global warming.
Read more>>

Weekly Roundup January 11, 2013

weekly roundupAn oil tanker hit the Bay Bridge early this week, fortunately causing only minimal damage, with no oil spilled. The cause remains unknown, but serves as a reminder that the rules governing tankers in the Bay are not strong enough. The Bay Bridge is exempt from the San Francisco Harbor Safety Plan, which advises ships not to navigate certain areas of the Bay with less than a half-mile visibility. High tides were back this week, reminiscent of the King tides but now accompanied by especially low tides too. The last remaining commercial fishery in San Francisco Bay was in full force this week, with schools of herring arriving in numbers unseen in past decades. The fishermen were out competing with local wildlife who were happily fattening up on this local delicacy. For once, there seemed to be enough for all. San Franciscans are celebrating new waterfront parks that are opening more of the southern end of the city to the public. If you want to get up close and personal with our local wetlands, and have a good time with your family, you might want to try geocaching. Read on to learn more.

CBS SF Bay Area 1/7/13
Oil Tanker Hits Bay Bridge Tower; No Spill Reported
An empty oil tanker caused minor damage Monday when it struck a tower in the middle of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge while navigating beneath the hulking span, officials said.
Read more>>

SF Chronicle 1/6/13
Dramatic tides carry great experiences
Last time around in mid-December, we called them king tides. They caused flooding in many tidal wetlands and lowlands edging San Francisco Bay. The levels of high and low tides fluctuate throughout the year, but this week’s highs mark the extreme in the next six months. In nature’s teeter-totter effect, uncommon negative low tides will follow.
Read more>>

Bay Nature 1/9/13
San Francisco Bay herring running at Mission Bay
The herring are running again in San Francisco, and it’s quite a show. Commercial fishing boats cast their nets in China Basin, at the mouth of Mission Creek, in the shadow of the Giants ballpark, and dozens of anglers threw small nets from piers and wharves all along the waterfront in Mission Bay.
Read more>>

SF Chronicle 1/10/13
Open future for city’s maritime past
The ghosts of San Francisco’s maritime past are getting some new company along the southern waterfront as the city works to bring people to sites previously open only to ships and seafarers.
Read more>>

Bay Nature 1/5/13
Cut Off from Nature or Take the Right Cut-off?
This is part of an occasional series of posts about the geocaching adventures of Bay Nature intern Paul Epstein and his son.
The wetlands defy easy access: crucially important to migrant bird populations and the health of the Bay, they are at the same time sometimes ugly, often muddy, and likely close to large, loud, smelly highways. Dad always enjoyed the concept of wetlands, though the reality was another matter. As an undergraduate, Dad had majored in a dead language, deep inside the walls of the Humanities. Recognizing that there was a larger world out there, Dad promised himself that he would take one class, not just in the adjacent corridors of the Sciences and the Social Sciences, but actually in a different college. Setting aside optometry, Dad took exactly one course in the School of Natural Resources, Political Ecology, in which he wrote exactly one, very lengthy paper on the loss of wetlands around the bay.
Read more>>