SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – A new study has found that Pacific herring in the San Francisco Bay have suffered long term effects from the 2007 Cosco Busan oil spill.

The Bay’s Pacific herring are the largest coastal population in the United States and the only commercially fished species in the Bay.

According to a study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, embryos collected from shorelines three months after the spill suffered unusually high death rates. By 2010, those rates had dropped to normal, but embryos still showed heart defects.

KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:

“The herring are really at the base of the food chain,” said David Lewis, Executive Director of Save the Bay.

He said birds like cormorants and sea lions live off herring and sushi connoisseurs enjoy herring roe. Lewis said the study is especially disturbing because there’s a plan in the works right now on how to restore the herring habitat.

(The plan) calls for $2.5 worth of fish habitat restoration, basically trying to grow eelgrass, which is an underwater grass where herring often spawn,” said Lewis. “The question is really whether that is enough money and enough habitat given how significant the damage is to the fishery.”

The Cosco Busan spill killed more than 6,800 birds and closed beaches for weeks.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed)

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