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.
The schools of herring, which surge into the bay in several waves, have attracted as many as 70,000 birds to the region, particularly to Richardson Bay in Marin County, a spawning hot spot for the squiggling hordes.
The fish arrived en masse beginning last week to lay and fertilize eggs, or roe - a delicacy for a wide variety of species, including sushi-loving humans. Fishermen are rushing out every morning to cast their nets before the menagerie of honking, squawking ducks, pelicans and diving birds can devour all the good stuff.
"We're the last predators to get a crack at those fish. Everyone else has come to the table, and we get the leftovers," said Nick Sohrakoff, a herring fisherman and chairman of the local herring advisory committee. "There's a lot of fish in the bay, and they seem this year to be a little bit bigger than they were in the past few years."