Vandals strike Casa Grande salmon project again

Heaping insult on injury, vandals struck again at a salmon restoration project in Tiburon and released the 20,000 hatchery-raised chinook smolts that were left in place after the first attack last week that set loose about 40,000 of the young fish.

This second act of vandalism was discovered Saturday morning by volunteers who arrived to work at the bayside pens at the Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies.

The cutting of zip ties that secured netting in a third and final pen is another harsh blow to the students at Petaluma's Casa Grande High School who meticulously raised about a third of the salmon at their internationally praised on-campus hatchery.

Members of Casa's United Anglers program had intended to celebrate the achievements of the past year and to cheer the release of the approximately 10-inch-long salmon at a special event at the Romberg Center on Oct. 30.

"It just doesn't make any sense. These kids are trying to do good," Brooke Halsey, director of the Tiburon Salmon Institute, said Sunday.

"It's just incredibly cold hearted," Halsey said. "About as cowardly as you can get."

An attorney and former Sonoma County deputy district attorney, Halsey said Assemblyman Jared Huffman will ask Gov. Jerry Brown to put up a reward for the arrest of the people responsible for the vandalism.

The Tiburon Salmon Institute and the San Francisco Tyee Club, which supports sport fishing and conservation, have partnered with the Casa Grande program for years to boost the salmon fishery by releasing smolts into San Francisco Bay. The Petaluma students raised about 20,000 of the fish scheduled for release later this month; the other 40,000 came from the state's Feather River hatchery.

No one has claimed responsibility for the early release of the 60,000 fish. Marin County Sheriff's investigators and the salmon-restoration groups are left to wonder if it was sabotage by animal-rights activists, an effort by fishermen to use the released smolts to attract larger game fish, simple malicious vandalism, or what.

Supporters of both the radical Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have criticized the conditions in which the salmon were held in the three netted pens in Tiburon.

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