Bay Area herring fishers challenge federal ban

In November, federal officials informed Bay Area fishermen that they would not be allowed to catch spawning herring in waters that abut protected Golden Gate National Recreation Area land. Since no federal law expressly permits fishing in waters off federal land, fishing is not allowed, GGNRA Superintendent Frank Dean wrote.

The Pacific herring commercial fishery, which began in the 1870s, is the last of its kind in the Bay. The silver-colored, 8- to 10-inch long fish’s value lies in their eggs, or roe. Processed roe is a staple in Japan.

In winter, the fish spawn in shallow coastal waters near estuaries. Fishermen nab pregnant herring as they head into these areas to spawn. The herring season in the Bay Area begins in January and ends in March, according to the California Department of Fish and Game.

Attorneys for the San Francisco Herring Association filed a lawsuit last week to challenge the federal restrictions, arguing that there is no federal law on the books that expressly gives the Interior Department the right to regulate fishing or other activities in the coastal areas in question.

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