California Protects Small Fish Critical to Coastal Wildlife - Oceana USA

California Protects Small Fish Critical to Coastal Wildlife

Pacific herring is essential for the marine food chain and commercial fishery

Press Release Date: October 10, 2019

Location: Valley Center, CA


Dustin Cranor, APR | email: | tel: 954.348.1314


The California Fish and Game Commission today unanimously adopted a first-of-its-kind Fishery Management Plan for Pacific herring. Oceana and Audubon have worked together with herring fishermen and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for seven years to create a new regulatory framework for fishery management that will protect herring as a vital food source for birds, marine mammals and fish, and ensure a sustainable herring fishery into the future. 

“With today’s adoption of the new plan, the herring fishery in California is arguably the most sustainably managed fishery in the nation,” said Geoff Shester, California campaign director and senior scientist for Oceana. “The innovative and collaborative approach taken to achieve this first-of-its-kind fishery management plan will ensure the vitality of the fishery is maintained while preserving an important food source for countless marine mammals for years to come. This kind of ecosystem-based management is particularly important in the face of a changing climate.”

“Pacific herring is a small fish that serves an enormous role, providing food for marine life from seabirds to sea lions and humpback whales,” said Anna Weinstein, director of marine conservation for the National Audubon Society. “This plan is unique because it takes into account all the animals that depend on herring as a food source. This plan and process can serve as a model for other species in California and in other states and will help ensure the sustainability of California’s herring fisheries.” 

The Pacific herring Fishery Management Plan is the first to be completed under the Fish and Game Commission’s 2012 Forage Species Policy, which aims to protect forage fish like herring that play such a huge role in supporting the entire ecosystem. Herring populations from British Columbia to San Francisco have declined due to climate change, habitat loss and fishing pressure. Currently, herring spawn in less than two percent of the West Coast’s estuaries, with the largest population and last remaining commercial fishery in San Francisco Bay.

More information on Pacific herring and the new Fishery Management Plan is available here.

Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one third of the world’s wild fish catch. With more than 200 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and killing of threatened species like turtles and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that one billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal, every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit to learn more.