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60,000 baby salmon released at Pillar Point Harbor
by Dan Bacher
Thursday May 10th, 2012 7:10 PM
"Coastside is coordinating this project because we want to be part of the solution to the challenges that the salmon fishery faces," said Gorelnik. "One challenge is the death trap of the Delta that requires the trucking or barging of juvenile fish. We are hopeful that a release on the San Mateo Coastline will provide good survival rates to adulthood and good opportunities for recreational and commercial anglers."

Photo of baby salmon being released into acclimation pen courtesy of Mark Gorelnik, Coastside Fishing Club.

60,000 baby salmon released at Pillar Point Harbor

by Dan Bacher

Members of the Coastside Fishing Club and California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) officials on Thursday morning teamed up to transfer 60,000 baby Chinook salmon (smolts) from tanker trucks to specially-built net pens floating in Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay.

The hatchery-raised Central Valley salmon – normally released into San Pablo Bay at this time of year – were released into the holding pen where they will acclimate for two weeks before being released into the ocean.

Marc Gorelnik of the Coastside Fishing Club said this was the first of two transfers totaling 180,000 fish and represents the only coastal release of baby salmon in the San Francisco Bay Area.

"Coastside is coordinating this project because we want to be part of the solution to the challenges that the salmon fishery faces," said Gorelnik. "One challenge is the death trap of the Delta that requires the trucking or barging of juvenile fish. We are hopeful that a release on the San Mateo Coastline will provide good survival rates to adulthood and good opportunities for recreational and commercial anglers."

“We bought two pens from a company in Washington," he said. "The first one was shipped in modular form and we assembled it at Pillar Point Harbor."

The dimensions of the interior pen are 48 feet by 24 feet, while the outside dimensions are 54 feet by 30 feet.

Club volunteers will periodically refill the automatic feeder purchased by Coastside. The fish were 60 to the pound when delivered by state officials, but will grow rapidly in the pens and after they are released into the ocean.

Due to the massive loss of Central Valley chinook salmon in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta as a result of the operation of huge export pumps that divert a major portion of the freshwater flowing into the San Francisco Bay, salmon advocates are working with the state to physically truck baby salmon around the Delta pumps for safe release, according to Gorelnik.

This project is a partnership between the DFG and Coastside Fishing Club, Northern California’s largest community of recreational fishermen committed to the common goal of improving our region’s fisheries. "We have had great cooperation from the commercial fishermen in Half Moon Bay," noted Gorelnik.

Gorelnik said one expected benefit of the project is to increase the local abundance of adult salmon. Members of the public will then be able to catch them, providing jobs and world-class recreational opportunity while sustaining economic activity in the region.

This is the third full recreational fishing season off the San Mateo County coast since the Central Valley salmon collapse of 2008 and 2009, when record low numbers of fall run chinooks returning to the Central Valley rivers prompted the closure of recreational and commercial salmon fishing two years in a row.

Big numbers of salmon are expected to return to the Sacramento, Feather, American and Mokelumne rivers this fall. Federal biologists estimate the ocean abundance of Sacramento River fall Chinook in 2012 at 819,400, far above the number – 122,000 to 180,000 fish - needed for optimum spawning.

In the Klamath River, biologists are forecasting four times more salmon than last year – and an amazing 15 times more than in 2006. The ocean salmon population is estimated to be 1.6 million adult Klamath River fall Chinook, compared to last year's forecast of 371,100.

For more information, Contact: Marc Gorelnik, Coastside Fishing Club, 510-333-6600.