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Pacific herring is a keystone species in coastal California marine ecosystems. That means that herring have a disproportionately large effect over their environment relative to their abundance because they are an important prey species and an important predator.
Interestingly, most herring are not caught for their flesh, but rather over 90% are caught for their roe (the eggs inside of them) that is exported to Japan. Japanese traditionally eat herring roe, or kazunoko, at the start of a new year because it symbolizes prosperity. To fill their demand for it, the Japanese turned to the United States and set off a "silver rush" in San Francisco and Tomales Bays that led to fishing limits on Pacific herring in 1973.
Culinary Tips: Pacific herring are fantastic when cured, pickeld or smoked, as is typical in northern European countries that love herring. Another great preparation is to coat the fillets in flour, shallow fry them, and serve with a lemon wedge.
Catch Method: Gillnets or purse seines
Sustainability: The Pacific herring stock in California is rebuilding after a period of low abundance in 2008-2009 so management is very careful on this species. The location and time of fishing is careful to avoid bycatch or habitat disruption.
- MBA Seafood Watch Rating: Best Choice
- NOAA Fish Stock Sustainability Index: N/A