Coho Salmon in crisis after Santa Cruz wildfire

Rescue the remaining Endangered Coho Salmon population from on the brink of extinction!  Fire badly damaged the genetics conservation and recovery hatchery. Remaining fish need to be rescued ASAP! Please help! These fish are the future of the Southern Coho. Don't let this be the end! The MBSTP program is the key to rebuilding salmon populations of the CA Central Coast, now more than ever. With watershed conditions so severely damaged wild fish will be lost. This hatchery can build back the population from the native gene stock uniquely adapted to the southern Central Coast. Without immediate funding, the remaining fish will be lost forever! We need a large-load ATV, temporary roadway development, and lodging/travel funding ASAP! We will rebuild the damaged hatchery (likely up to $500K) but need immediate funding to save the fish.

This campaign initiated by our special friends, Bruce Goldstein and Vicki Goldstein. Their narrative follows:
 
Our dear friend Mat Rowley just lost his house in the devastating CZU wildfire near Santa Cruz, California. Mat and Anne are going to be okay – they’ve got a place to live while they rebuild. What Mat’s really worried about is the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project (MBSTP). The Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit that has worked to recover the native endangered local salmon and steelhead  on Scott Creek in partnership with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and NOAA Fisheries since 1976. It's been Mat’s passion for over twenty-five years – he’s been its manager, fund-raiser, and even its fish-counter, spending hours underwater in a wetsuit in the chilly waters. 

In addition to Mat’s home, the Hatchery Manager, Mark Galloway’s home, right next to the hatchery, also burnt to the ground. Mat and Mark had evacuated and they thought surely the hatchery must be destroyed as well. While devastated by the loss of their own homes, Mat and Mark were both more concerned about the fish they had spent their careers saving. 

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As Mat wrote to me after the fire, “I need to save what can be saved. These fish matter. They are precious in so very many ways and are a key to the ecological recovery of the devastated Santa Cruz County wild-lands. A rich and beautiful ecotone now pushed to the edge of the ability to recover.”

He knows he will be okay, but he is less sure about the Coho Salmon species. Yet he is not ready to give up on his project or the species, despite these overwhelming obstacles. He elaborated on the importance of salmon.

“So much of the native terrestrial biota have burnt away. Salmon bring energy and nutrients from the wide Pacific up into the coastal watersheds providing food and fertilizer to terrestrial plants and animals. As they spawn and die, their carcasses are consumed and fry produced are vital to healthy riparian ecology.”   


The Damage

Both access bridges to the hatchery are destroyed so there is only foot access currently. When authorities gave MBSTP permission to return safely to the area, they went to the facilities by foot and found heavy damage to the outdoor rearing tanks in addition to the destroyed access bridges. But they were astonished to find that the main hatchery building and several tanks were undamaged and, most importantly, nearly 30,000 endangered Coho Salmon survived

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However, with these surviving fish comes great responsibility. These 30,000 Coho Salmon are a rare and vital part of a species that was on the verge of extinction by the late 1990s. While the species has been declining almost everywhere in Central California, Scott Creek is a bright spot because of the work of Mat, Mark, and other dedicated volunteers through MBSTP. There are only two places where the species is increasing in abundance and both support conservation hatchery programs; one of them is Scott Creek in Santa Cruz County. The world cannot afford to let MBSTP’s conservation hatchery program fall. 

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The damage:
Inaccessible because both access bridges are burnt away
Complete destruction of 5 outdoor rearing pools and shade structures
Complete destruction of remote incubation water intake facilities 
Off-road vehicle destroyed
No lodging for Mark, who lived next to the facilities
Hazardous materials and general clean up


Now the Hard Work Begins.

The valuable, endangered Coho Salmon that survived the initial emergency must now be kept alive. The off-road vehicle normally used for operations was burned in the fire. Right now, this kind of vehicle is needed to rescue the surviving fish from the damaged hatchery. Currently, without bridge access, workers have no other way to access the facilities to care for and transport the salmon. This vehicle is regularly used for routine operations and is now essential for this current emergency. It will cost $16,000-18,000 to replace.

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Even after the immediate rescue, the Coho Salmon will need to fulfill their destiny and the purpose behind the hatchery in the first place: their release into the wild. Despite the current emergency, nature has its own clock and fish don’t wait. All 30,000 individuals must be released before the rains start, meaning there are less than two months until their release dates in mid-October through November.  The species faces increasing risks and every year counts for the fish to pass on their rare and vital genetic material.  Without vehicle access, the fish cannot be released into various watersheds to fulfill the organization’s mission (and the fish’s mission too!).

Mark was only a few years from retirement and he has alternate lodging in Washington State. However, neither Mark nor MBSTP is prepared for his early retirement. In the midst of this complex crisis, MBSTP needs his expertise and commitment as never before. He needs a place to stay nearby to continue working in Santa Cruz during this emergency. He is currently out of pocket for these expenses but we can’t expect that from someone who just lost their home and all of their belongings, no matter their dedication or willingness. 

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Immediate needs to rescue and release the surviving fish:
Off-Road Vehicle
Bridge Repair
Lodging for Mark

After we solve the immediate crisis of saving the fish, Mat and Mark will work on the bigger project of building or restoring the hatchery and new facilities to hold future fish and continuing the conservation mission. Currently, they are just taking it one day at a time and focusing on what really matters: the 30,000 surviving endangered Coho Salmon that, if all goes well, will be released in the wild to reproduce and contribute to the ecosystem as they were always meant to.

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More information

The unprecedented fires in California over the past decade remind us of how much climate change is impacting the world. These 30,000 fish and their descendants are more important now than ever. There is much to rebuild, but with your help, the Central California Coho Salmon species will endure. Will you help Mat bring the hatchery and the salmon of Scott Creek back from the brink?

We would especially like to thank the following staff and volunteers who undertook a truly courageous effort to repeatedly enter an active wildfire zone in order to assess and secure the surviving fish. You redefine the word hero for all of us and you are the reason so many of these precious fish survived:
Fish Culturist: Seth Bowman
Facilities Manager: Chuck Backman
Executive Director: Ben Harris
Board Chair Emeritus (and retired Fire Battalion Chief): Matt McCaslin

To learn more about the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project, please go to their website and Facebook page .

The Santa Cruz community will endure.

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Donations

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  • Kate Sladen 
    • $50 
    • 1 d
  • Charlise Whiteside 
    • $100 
    • 3 d
  • John Murphy 
    • $50 
    • 4 d
  • Peter Melhus 
    • $20 
    • 4 d
  • Anonymous 
    • $25 
    • 4 d
See all

Organizer

Bruce and Vicki Goldstein 
Organizer
Santa Cruz, CA
Monterey Bay Salmon & Trout Project 
Registered nonprofit
Donations are 100% tax deductible.
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