Among larvae from populations of Pacific herring Clupea pallasii in Washington State, those from Cherry Point have consistently demonstrated abnormalities indicative of distress, including low weights and lengths at hatch, increased prevalences of skeletal abnormalities, and shorter survival times in food deprivation studies. The biomass of adult, prespawn Pacific herring at Cherry Point declined from 13,606 metric tons in 1973 to a record low 733 metric tons in 2000. However, correlation of larval abnormalities with adult recruitment was weak, indicating that the larval abnormalities did not directly cause the decline. Larval abnormalities originated primarily from factors independent of conditions at the spawning location because they were not reproduced by incubation of foreign zygotes along the Cherry Point shoreline but were reproduced after the development of indigenous zygotes in controlled laboratory conditions. Although the precise cause of the abnormalities was not determined, recent zoographic trends in elevated natural mortality among adult Pacific herring and resulting reduced age structures may be involved.