We reported last month that the much-heralded return of a market for fresh herring to San Francisco was off to a slow start. Last year, the California Department of Fish and Game changed its regulations to allow herring meat to be sold locally. Previously, the fish was caught commercially so its roe could be sold in Japan.
Well, it appears the waiting is over. After a month in which it was difficult to track down sufficient quantities of fish, a sizable amount of herring was landed last night, said Tom Worthington of Monterey Fish Market.
"Restaurants are starting to get it," Worthington said. "We'll see what they start to do with it."
He said the most prominent Bay Area restaurants to purchase fresh herring today were Quince, Chez Panisse, Nettie's Crab Shack, and Ippuku. With these sales and others to smaller customers, Worthington said, Monterey Fish sold "a couple hundred pounds" of herring today, all told.
Herring is also now for sale at Monterey Fish Market's retail location in Berkeley. The fish are selling for about $3 per pound to retail customers, Worthington said, and at about $2.50 per pound to restaurants.
"It's not a big money thing for anybody," he said. "It's an excitement thing."
Worthington said he obtained his fish from Mel Wickliffe of Pier 45 Seafood -- whose supplier, commercial herring fisherman Ernie Koepf, helped pioneer the change to DFG regulations -- and that he expects more fish to be available in the coming days.