Posts Tagged San Francisco

May 23 2016

Humpback and blue whales feeding in record numbers off SF coast

humpbackAn unusually large number of humpback whales like this one have been seen over the past two weeks in San Francisco Bay. Photo by Lauri Duke.

By Peter Fimrite

Record numbers of humpack and blue whales are feeding off the coast of San Francisco in a display of gluttony virtually unprecedented for this time of year, marine scientists fresh off a weeklong study near the Farallon Islands confirmed Sunday.

The researchers on the 208-foot-long Bell Shimada, which is now docked at Piers 30 and 32 along the Embarcadero, counted between 30 and 60 humpbacks a day and about 10 blue whales over the past seven days. Those numbers are far higher than normal for this time of year, based on similar studies done over 13 years.

“We don’t know if it’s food-driven or water-temperature- or climate-change-driven,” Jan Roletto, research coordinator for the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, said of this month’s massive numbers of hungry humpbacks.

Last year was also a big year for humpbacks. “They’ve been showing up earlier and earlier” every year, she said.

The researchers suspect the giant cetaceans are following prey — including the tiny shrimp-like creatures known as krill, anchovies and schools of small fish. Several humpbacks were seen over the past few weeks feeding in San Francisco Bay near Fort Point, a highly unusual activity for the whales, which generally prefer to be well offshore.

The weeklong expedition, which covered some 50 miles of ocean from Half Moon Bay to Bodega Bay, was an attempt by scientists with the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, and Point Blue Conservation Science to document wildlife populations and trends in the area, which is known to be one of the world’s most abundant marine ecosystems.

Marine scientists describe their work on the research vessel Bell M. Shimada

Media: / San Francisco Chronicle

The researchers took water temperatures; measured ocean acidification; counted birds, whales and other marine mammals; and calculated the amount of krill and other marine organisms to determine what drives sea bird and whale abundance. The researchers also took measurements of ocean nutrients, including testing for harmful algal blooms like the one last year that poisoned sea lions and forced closure of the Dungeness crab season.

“We are coming out of El Niño, so we’re hoping to determine what happens in the ocean after an El Niño,” Roletto said.

So far this year, ocean temperatures appear to be normal, she said. That’s a welcome change from last year, when temperatures reached 6 degrees above normal. The high temperatures apparently contributed to record deaths of seabirds and sea lions, a profusion of alien species and poison-spewing algal blooms. No harmful algae has been found this year, she said.

Besides the whales, mass quantities of zooplankton known as doliolids were found in the water, often clogging scientist’s nets. The tube-like creatures thrive in warm bands of water. The team also found that the bodies of some krill have shrunk because of a lack of phytoplankton, their primary food source. Krill in other areas, particularly between the Farallon Islands and the ocean outcropping called Cordell Bank, were much bigger.

Along the Golden Gate Strait in San Francisco, this videographer captured a double breaching when two massive humpback whales shot out of the glistening water simultaneously.

Read the original post and view the slideshow:

Nov 20 2014

San Francisco can’t keep up with bonanza Dungeness crab catch

Posted by permission of SEAFOODNEWS.COM  – November 19, 2014



If you are hoping to eat crab on Thanksgiving, you’ll love this. Crab boats are coming back absolutely loaded to the gills. The only downside is that huge catch is creating a few challenges.

Pier 45 has been dealing with a bottleneck of boats trying to deliver their catch. Several boats are still parked in the bay waiting to deliver their catch and head back out to fish. That means the dock workers will be working past midnight for the fourth day in a row.

Since the beginning of the commercial crab season began on Saturday, an estimated 400 boats have been delivering a steady stream of crab to Pier 45.

“We stayed until 2 or 3 last night,” president of the Crab Boat Association Larry Collins said. When we asked him how much sleep he got, he replied, “Not much.”

Many boats have been parked in the bay waiting to deliver. Crews are pumping in oxygen to keep their catch alive.

“We just don’t have the facilities here to unload any more than we are,” skipper Dan Hunt said. He explained in the meantime, “We just sit on crab. Pump on them, keep them alive until the market can take them.”

“It doesn’t look like there’s much crab in Eureka, Crescent City or Brookings, so everybody and their brother came down for this opener,” Collins said.

Skipper Brian Kelley and his crew, from Fort Brag hauled in 30,000 pounds in the first three days. This all amounts to plenty of overtime pay for Juan Cornejo who straps rubber bands around the claws of the Dungeness crabs and gets his share of pinches. He said it happens twice a day.

The crabbers are getting $3 a pound and by the time it’s shipped, boiled, cracked and put on your plate at the restaurant, the price is about $10.95 a pound.

“Yeah, a lot of good crab this year. It’s all 2.5 pounds or bigger. Usually, they’re about a pound and a half to two,” C.J. Green form Alioto’s restaurant said.

Eventually, the crab harvest will thin out and the price will claw its way up. But until then, crab lovers are being encouraged to come and get it.

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Jan 10 2014

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.

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.”

The riotous reception is a good sign that the bay’s once-thriving herring runs, which collapsed four years ago, are returning to glory. The San Francisco run – the last urban fishery in the United States – is the only big-time fishing operation where spectators can actually sit on shore and watch commercial boats haul in the catch.

Read the full article here.


Apr 25 2013

Lower fishing limits rejected by judge

A federal judge has rejected an environmental group’s attempt to require the government to lower its catch limits on sardines, mackerel and other forage fish off the California coast.

The organization, Oceana, claimed that the plan approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service in 2010 was based on flawed data and allowed fishing at levels that would deplete offshore populations of several species. Those fish are part of the food chain for other fish, seabirds and whales.

But U.S. District Judge Edward Chen of San Francisco said Friday that the federal agency had simply reaffirmed, or in some cases tightened, the harvesting limits it had set for the same forage species in 2000.

Chen ordered the fisheries service to reconsider its catch levels for one species, the northern anchovy, saying the agency had reopened that subject in 2010 but failed to determine the limits needed to protect the fish. That decision is required, he said, by a 1976 conservation law designed to prevent overfishing.

But Chen said it was too late to challenge the rules the agency had established in 2000 – and reaffirmed in 2010 – for the Pacific sardine, the Pacific mackerel, the jack mackerel and the market squid. Oceana also challenged the fisheries service’s conclusion that its 2010 plan would cause no ecological harm and that a full environmental study was therefore not required. But the judge said the 2010 plan “by its very terms has no negative impact.”

Read the full San Francisco Chronicle article here.

Mar 7 2012

Abundant Sacramento and Klamath Salmon Drive Season Options

Photo of the Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting to develop season options courtesy of the PFMC.

Written By Dan Bacher 

In the Klamath River, biologists are forecasting four times more salmon than last year – and an astounding 15 times more than in 2006, according to the PFMC. The ocean salmon population is estimated to be 1.6 million adult Klamath River fall Chinook, compared to last year’s forecast of 371,100.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) at its meeting in Sacramento on March 7, encouraged by predictions of plentiful salmon returns along the West Coast, released three alternatives for ocean salmon fisheries including those based on Sacramento River and Klamath River stocks.

In all three alternatives, the recreational ocean salmon season is slated to open on April 7 in the Fort Bragg, San Francisco and Monterey areas, from Horse Mountain to the U.S./Mexico Border. There are three opening date alternatives – May 1, May 12 and May 26 – for the Oregon and California Klamath Management Zones.

After hearing public comment on the alternatives, the Council will make a final recommendation at their next meeting in Seattle on April 1-6.


Read the full article on AlterNet.


Sep 2 2011

KGO-TV: FDA helps create DNA database for fish

How do you know the fish you buy is really what it’s supposed to be? The answer is often you don’t. So the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is trying to protect consumers using DNA identification. It’s a global project, and the Philippines is believed to have more types of fish than almost any place on Earth, so it’s a great place to collect specimens. ABC7 News was the only TV station to go there with American researchers working to keep our food safe.

Read the rest of the story here.