[env-trinity] Federal Agents Investigate Steelhead Poisoning at Monterey Bay Hatchery

Daniel Bacher danielbacher at hotmail.com
Sun Apr 10 13:49:12 PDT 2005

Federal Agents Conduct Investigation Of Steelhead Poisoning At Monterey Bay 

by Dan Bacher

Federal law enforcement agents from NOAA Fisheries were called to the 
Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project’s Fish Hatchery near Davenport on 
March 18 to investigate the apparent poisoning of 12 steelhead trout in a 
freshwater holding tank.

Steelhead trout in central California are protected under the federal 
Endangered Species Act (ESA). Because of the killing of these fish, 
steelhead production at the volunteer-supported facility may be cut 50 to 60 
percent this year.

The NOAA Fisheries Office for Law Enforcement is seeking the public’s 
assistance and offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the 
conviction of the person or persons responsible for the death of the 
federally-protected fish.

“This is more than just a minor act of vandalism or prank,” said Special 
Agent Joe Giordano, NOAA Fisheries Office for Law Enforcement - Southwest 
Division. “This is a serious federal offense and we intend to apprehend and 
prosecute whoever committed this crime.”

At press time, NOAA Fisheries was in the process of investigating leads in 
the case, according to special Agent Steve Myer in Sacramento,

Anyone with information concerning this incident should call Special Agent 
Giordano at (707) 575-6073 or the Office for Law Enforcement hotline at 
toll-free, 1-800-853-1964.

“The steelhead were originally transported from San Lorenzo River to the 
hatchery to be used as a breeding stock in re-populating the native species 
to the various streams within the watershed,” according to NOAA.

Steelhead in the San Lorenzo River are listed as “threatened” under the ESA. 
The penalty for “taking” a listed threatened species under the ESA is up to 
$13,200 and up to six months in jail.”

The hatchery is still trapping steelhead at the inflated dam installed by 
the City of Santa Cruz on the San Lorenzo River, so hopefully the project 
will receive more fish this year. Instead of releasing 50,000 to 60,000 
steelhead smolts as they do every year, the project may release only 25,000 
to 30,000 steelhead.

The loss of the adult steelhead may also result in the elimination of the 
STEP Program’s steelhead program in Santa Cruz area schools this year. In 
this program, students in K through 12 schools raise eyed steelhead eggs in 
tanks for 45 days until they are ready to be released into the stream, 
according to Larry Wolf, board member of the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout 

The hatchery is a state of the art facility that is the only private, 
non-profit hatchery south of Smith River. The organization releases 
approximately 80,000 steelhead trout, 60,000 endangered coho salmon and 
240,000 king salmon in Monterey Bay or local streams that flow into Monterey 

“We’re the only hatchery certified to handle endangered coho salmon through 
a section 10 permit with the National Marine Fishery Service,” said Wolf.

The project also has the unique distinction of preventing the Carmel River 
steelhead run from becoming extinct by maintaining the fish in pens during 
the drought of the early 1990’s when the Carmel didn’t flow to the ocean.

Four years ago, the project began operating the Santa Cruz harbor salmon net 
pen. They also replaced the old net pen at Moss Landing Harbor with a new 
net pen identical to the one placed in Santa Cruz harbor.

“In the last 10 years, we have released over 2 million king salmon into 
Monterey Bay,” said Wolf. “Reports coming in from Fish and Game on the 
harvest of ocean salmon indicate that our hatchery fish have a 800 percent 
higher survey rate than salmon fry released from large federal and state 
hatcheries directly into our rivers and streams.”

I find it appalling that anybody would attack the fine work of an 
organization such as the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project. This project 
has done more on a shoestring budget to restore endangered salmon and trout 
populations in the Monterey Bay region than any other group.

The project, with the exception of the full time fishery biologist, Dave 
Streig, is completely run by volunteers. Streig, Wolf and the many project 
volunteers I’ve met over the years are some of the most dedicated people 
involved in salmon and steelhead restoration in California.

This year’s budget is only $105,000 – and the project accomplishes 
tremendous work for such a small budget.  All of the fish raised in the 
hatchery are from wild stock obtained from trapping on the San Lorenzo 
River; so all of the fish they raise are wild in origin.  I hope the 
individuals who committed the vandalism are soon found and prosecuted.

Meanwhile, the killing of the brood stock steelhead in a detestable criminal 
act makes it even more crucial that the main fundraiser for the 
organization, the Annual Mammoth Monterey Bay Big Fish Derby, be a huge 

The derby this year will take place on July 1, 2 and 3. As the result of 
budget cuts in Sacramento, the project has experienced the loss of the 
majority of its public funding, so the project is depending upon this 
fundraiser, its annual dinner and contributions to keep its great programs 

For more information about the derby or how you can help the project, call 
Larry Wolf, (831) 688-4255 or by email at Mbstp at aol.com. You can visit their 
updated web site at www.mbstp.org.

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