Project History

The Monterey Bay Salmon & Trout Project (MBSTP) is a membership-based nonprofit 501c3 organization, the governance structure of which is very grass-roots democracy. Dues-paying members elect Directors to two-year terms by popular vote. Each year, approximately half of the Board of Directors is elected. It is an open election, in that any member may appeal to the Board to be included on the ballot. Any MBSTP member of record is an eligible candidate through the ‘write-in’ option.

Annual hatchery activity reports are available HERE  Annual financial reports for the organization are available HERE

The Board of Directors serves without compensation, but each Board member finds the position extremely rewarding through their support of MBSTP programs, which make great fisheries conservation accomplishments possible.

Our membership is made up of a very diverse group of salmonid enthusiasts with a civic minded, hands-on approach to fisheries recovery.

Learn how the Monterey Bay Salmon & Trout Project all began right here:


The Beginning

The Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project was founded in 1976 by Dr. Tom Thompson of the University of California, Santa Cruz to address the problems of declining anadromous fish populations of the Monterey Bay area. The Project is made up of concerned individuals, landowners, businesses, angling clubs and community groups from the greater Monterey Bay area and extending into San Mateo, San Benito and Santa Clara County. While our agency is based in Santa Cruz County, our support and membership range throughout the South San Francisco Bay area and Central California.

The Project’s first facilities were located at the City of Salinas wastewater percolation ponds. Rearing facilities were then moved to a private pond in Salinas. Salmon were raised to parr size and then transferred to holding pens at Moss Landing and Monterey where they were fed and acclimated until they reached the size and maturity for natural migration to the ocean, at which time they were released.

Organizational sponsorships grew from 4-H clubs, Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis clubs, county fish and game advisory committees, to rod and gun clubs, fly fishing groups, commercial fishing associations and corporate foundations. MBSTP became more expert in the production difficulties of relatively large-scale fish rearing, and started to develop formal operating procedures and accumulate the necessary equipment for rigorous water quality monitoring and fish rearing.

During the first five years of Project operation, through 1980, the California Department of Fish and Game gave MBSTP 21,500 coho salmon fingerlings of which almost 20,000 were raised in Elkhorn Slough and Monterey Harbor to enhance the sport and commercial fisheries of Monterey Bay. In 1980, the Project received 20,000 steelhead trout fingerlings of which 17,040 were released into the Pajaro River in March, 1981.

Working toward recovery

In May 1982, the Kingfisher Flat area on Big Creek near Davenport was obtained for the development of a new cold-water rearing facility on property owned by the Big Creek Timber Company. CDFG operated a coho salmon hatchery on the same site from 1927-1940. An old diversion dam was restored and construction was begun on hatchery infrastructure.

In 1984, permission was obtained from CDFG to trap adult broodstock at the City of Santa Cruz Water Department’s inflatable dam on the San Lorenzo River at Felton. This provided MBSTP with a source of local broodstock from natural returns. MBSTP historically operated an additional trap on Big Creek for the provision of broodstock. However, collection of adult fish in the Scott Creek watershed now occurs at a NOAA-operated Lifecycle Monitoring Station.

Until 1985, eggs were incubated using redwood hatch boxes in the Berry Creek tributary of Big Creek. That year construction started on the main hatchery building at Kingfisher Flat. The Santa Cruz County Fish and Game Advisory Committee donated moneys for the concrete slab foundation, and Big Creek Timber Company donated $15,000 in lumber and construction materials. The Lucile and David Packard Foundation donated $16,229 for the purchase of plumping, filtration systems and vertical column incubators. The hatchery building was entirely constructed using volunteer labor and was completed in the fall of 1985.

During the fall of 1986, a rearing pool was installed on Powdermill Creek, a tributary to the San Lorenzo river. This facility has the intended purpose of allowing juvenile steelhead to acclimate to their basin of origin before being released. In 1987, a permanent high capacity water aeration system was added at KFGCH. This helped alleviate the problem of low oxygen levels during periods of reduced stream flow.

Continuing our Legacy

MBSTP’s Salmon and Trout Education Program (STEP) was begun by Barry Burt and Matt McCaslin in 1986 with the goal of educating area K-12 students in the central topics of conservation, field biology and aquatic sciences. Connecting students to their local watersheds in a hands-on fashion has been a central goal of the STEP curriculum from the very beginning.

STEP materials have been continually refined to provide immersive, experiential learning modules for teachers and students. The STEP program’s influence has spread along the coast of Monterey Bay into the central valley, training hundreds of teachers and thousands of students to act as stewards of our local rivers and watersheds. Former STEP students and educators serve as foundational members of MBSTP, demonstrating the capability of the STEP program to develop the next generation of aquatic conservationists.

Throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s, MBSTP continued to work in cooperation with other local nonprofits (Carmel River Steelheaders, Castroville Rotary Club, Flycasters Inc. of San Jose) to support and recover populations of native trout and salmon to the central coast. The MBSTP STEP continued working in hundreds of area schools until a hiatus in 2015 due to permitting changes for the handling of steelhead eggs. The STEP program was re-started with updated curriculum in Fall 2018, using anadromous fish and their habitats to engage students in the topics of aquatic science and watershed conservation.

Where we go from here

Since its inception over 40 years ago, MBSTP has worked to protect and recover the native salmon and trout populations of the Monterey Bay region. Our work carries on today through our programs devoted to coho salmon and steelhead recovery, chinook salmon fishery enhancement, and watershed conservation education.

Throughout its history as a nonprofit, MBSTP has overcome many substantial obstacles. Our hatchery facility has endured wildfires, floods, and droughts. Our programs have worked through technical and operational issues to continue efforts in support of the recovery of trout and salmon populations of the Monterey Bay region. Without the tireless devotion of MBSTP members and support from the local community, our organization would not have survived these challenges MBSTP’s greatest asset is the dedicated member base that makes all of our programs possible.

If you would like to be a part of these critically important recovery efforts for native salmon and trout populations, please consider donating or becoming a member.