(CN) - Commercial fisherman in the Bay Area cannot gather spawning herring within a protected quarter-mile, a federal judge ruled, refusing to issue an injunction.
The herring season begins in January and ends in March, according to the Department of Fish and Game's website. Recent seasonal quotas generally range around 3,000 tons, but a decline in fish led to the cancelation of the entire season in 2009.
U.S. officials informed Bay Area fisherman in November 2012 that fishing would not be allowed within one quarter of a mile offshore of the shoreline of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Stretching from Tomales Bay near Point Reyes to Fort Funston south of Ocean Beach, the national park includes most of coastal southwestern Marin and western San Francisco.
The San Francisco Herring Association (SFHA) filed suit this past April, arguing that no federal law empowers the Interior Department to regulate fishing or other activities in the coastal areas in question.
It also said that restricting Bay Area fishing would just increase fishing in other areas, such as Richardson Bay near Sausalito, which does not abut federal land and isn't affected by the ban.
Fishing within the GGNRA meanwhile would allegedly preserve a younger hatchery and reduce the amount of time boats spend out in the bay searching for fish.
An injunction would have allowed fishing in the restricted areas until the herring season ends in March, but U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar denied the motion Wednesday.
Though he deemed the challenge plausible, Tigar said "the court is not in a position to determine whether the SFHA or the federal government have the better approach to preserving the sustainability of the Pacific herring fishery."
Ultimately the group failed to show that the balance of hardship tips sharply in its favor, according to the ruling.
The herring are mostly caught for their roe, which is a delicacy in Japan. Some find the meat tasty. Sausalito's annual herring festival kicks off Feb. 9.