Founded in 1976, the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project (MBSTP) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the restoration and enhancement of the native salmon and steelhead populations of the greater Monterey Bay area.
The MBSTP operates a hatchery and rearing facility to supplement natural production which has been reduced due to habitat degradation and other environmental factors. One objective of this program is the reintroduction of native steelhead and especially Coho (silver) salmon into local stream where they were historically present. The MBSTP assists the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and NOAA Fisheries in research addressing current limiting factors, such as the elimination of certain diseases endemic to the habitat, and best recovery practices for our local salmonids. To date the MBSTP has released over 2 million Coho salmon and steelhead into area streams from whence they out migrate to the ocean and grow naturally into maturity.
The MBSTP operates a salt-water net pen in Santa Cruz harbor to acclimate Chinook salmon fingerlings (smolt) obtained from the Feather River, or Mokelumne Hatcheries into the ocean. The objective of this program is to reduce fish losses during out migration thereby increasing the numbers of Chinook salmon available in Monterey Bay for sport and commercial fishery. As of June 2014, the MBSTP has released over 4 million Chinook salmon into the Monterey Bay. A 5-year Coded Wire Tag (CWT) study is being conducted by CDFW to track the recovery of the fish released. MBSTP pays for and provides volunteer labor for the tags & tagging, fin-clip marking, vaccination, net-pen deployment, and management. Preliminary results from recovery of the CWT’s by anglers indicates that about 3% of the fish MBSTP releases are caught by anglers. That’s thousands of fish per year!
The MBSTP currently supports the STEP program in over 100 classrooms in five counties (elementary through high school grade levels). The purpose of this program is to develop awareness of the life cycle and habitat requirements of our local salmon and steelhead. To this end the Project has developed and distributes class curricula, trains teachers annually, and provides continuing support including eyed steelhead eggs for rearing in classroom aquaria. The students watch the fry hatch and release them into the San Lorenzo River with the knowledge of their life-cycle and hopes that their fish will one-day return as a big spawning-run steelhead. This process creates an emotional bond between the student and their local steelhead population. To date approximately 180,000 students have participated in this program. These students become champions of good watershed stewardship practices and salmonid recovery!
During the 37-year life of the MBSTP, the CDFW provided substantial financial support. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s CDFW budgets were severely cut with corresponding reductions in what they have provided to the MBSTP. In 2003, the Governor’s office vetoed the entire MBSTP appropriation. Subsequent action by the Commercial Salmon Stamp Committee provided partial and limited funding for the Chinook Salmon Program, but that ceased years ago. Currently MBSTP Programs rely on individual and corporate donations to operate. The Programs are variously supported by a variety of grants from private foundations and government agencies. These are invariably restricted in how the funds can be used and are of limited duration. Individual donations remain the life-blood that keeps the MBSTP viable.