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San Francisco State University Closes the door on Salmon Rearing Program

We are shocked and dismayed that San Francisco State University SFSU sent a June 1st Demand letter ordering us to remove our project and equipment from it's home at the Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies RTC in Tiburon by July 1st. The project has been there for 42 years raising salmon and connecting with the community. The San Francisco Tyee Foundation and their partners established the project in 1973. The property is owned by San Francisco State University. Prior Administrations at the facility have worked with our project and included it as part of the community that inhabits this Bayside marine station. Ms. Karina Nielsen the current Director of 7 months, now wants the project stopped and ejected from the property. Although her stated reasons keep changing, it is clear that she does not like the project and wants it gone. Please help stop this terrible decision by writing the SFSU President Leslie Wong at 1600 Holloway Ave, San Francisco CA 94132 and ask him to reverse this decision. You may also go to and sign our petition to the president. Please help us save this most important education project.


As a 10 year old, I remember being fascinated with these salmon pens that then,were home to Coho Salmon Smolts. The San Francisco Tyee Foundation and the Tyee Club were working with California Department of Fish and Game and National Marine Fisheries to raise salmon and study them to see if a San Francisco Bay Fishery for Coho could be established. They soon learned that Chinook Salmon were more hearty and made for a better return rate. And so the pens were established. Raising over 50,000 Chinook salmon a year and releasing them into the migration path in San Francisco Bay.

The San Francisco Tyee Foundation is the non-profit that was established to run the project in it's inception in 1973. They partnered with NOAA and the other agencies. The Tyee Foundation stored supplies and equipment in the NOAA warehouse BLDG 86. An operations building has been next to the pens all 42years of operation. The Tiburon Salmon Institute was formed to bring more labor to the program and coordinate the different agencies that were involved in the net pen project. When the California Academy of Science was moving from their temporary location on Howard St. in S.F. back to Golden Gate Park, they gave TSI the opportunity to receive all types of equipment: tanks, filters, pumps, everything necessary to open a first rate interpretive center. With a great working relationship existing with the Tyee Foundation, NOAA allowed TSI to use the warehouse that NOAA still controls. SFSU would like TSI to vacate this building, as well as the salmon rearing pen area, even though they do not control the building's use.

Fast forward to the present: In 1994 the United Anglers of Casa Grande partnered with the project. The students at Casa Grande High School in Petaluma built a state of the art hatchery on their campus. They harvested salmon from the Adobe Creek near their school and spawned them in the hatchery. Students then raised them to smolts. The smolts were then placed into the floating pens where they were cared for until October when they were released. These 20,000 fish then swam free with the 40,000 or so smolts that were received from one of the Cal Department Of Fish and Wildlife Hatcheries. Tiburon Salmon Institute uses the project as an educational tool to connect children to the Bay and salmon habitat. "Empowering Today's Youth To Save Tomorrow's Salmon"

All of the fish are tagged with special coded wire tags. Data, such as their return rate, and origin is collected. From the stand point of viability, the project was a huge success. Our fish leave our pens fat and happy, ready to face whatever the Pacific Ocean has to offer them. We have a high return rate. The students can correlate the data from the returned tags and determine what the return rate is.

In 2005 approximately 350 fish returned. This is a high number because only a fraction of the population returns. Three fish out 3,000 eggs would be a sustainable percentage. The problem that occurred was that fish were not always returning to the stream from where they were spawned. They often strayed with other fish and returned to other waters.

The cause of this effect was that the salmon were trucked down to rearing pens rather than migrating naturally and imprinting on the water all the way down the river to the San Francisco Bay. The fish avoided many hazards and predators that way, but they did not get a chance to imprint to a strong degree. Salmon use their memory of smell to find their way home.

With advice from salmon experts like Dr. William Cox with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and other great salmon experts, TSI changed the structure of the program. United Anglers stopped raising fish harvested from Adobe Creek, and we do not receive the steelhead that they now raise. Those fish are released in specified waters according to where their genetic make up comes from. Because our rearing pens are such a good teaching tool for connecting students to the "Salmon Highway" which flows past the Romberg Center we kept one rearing pen. Every salmon that returns up the Sacramento or San Juaquin River Systems swims past the Romberg Center on their way up. Again, when the smolts find their way to the Pacific Ocean, they swim right past the Romberg Center on their way to the sea. This is our model - The Salmon Highway

We now receive 10,000 Chinook Salmon Smolts usually from the Feather River. We release 2,000 of the fish at our annual Kiss and Release event every May at Blackie's Pasture in Tiburon. Children of all ages attend this fun event. The students from Casa Grande High School come down from Petaluma after picking up the salmon at the Feather River Hatchery. They help as salmon smolts 2 to 3 inches long are given to children wait with small buckets of water to receive them. The fish are then gently kissed (sometimes) released into the Bay by the children.

The other 8,000 fish are held in our rearing pen at Romberg Center and are cared for by students from May until October. They are released at the top of a high tide and swim with the outgoing tide toward the Pacific Ocean. Students learn about schooling patterns, feeding patterns, and water conditions needed to keep these fish healthy and strong. It is a powerful tool to "Empower Today's Youth To Save Tomorrow's Salmon"