TIBURON — Federal and local authorities are investigating vandalism at an environmental studies center that led to the release tens of thousands of baby Chinook salmon from holding pens, a practice animal rights activists have criticized as inhumane.

On Saturday, for the second time in a week, someone cut the pens' netting, releasing 20,000 juvenile salmon called smolts nearly a month ahead of schedule

More than 40,000 fish being raised by students at Casa Grande High School in Petaluma in partnership with the Tiburon Salmon Institute were released early on Oct. 3.

Brooke Halsey, director of the institute, called the vandals "cowards."

Marin County Sheriff's Office and the FBI are investigating the incidents.

After the first release, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals applauded the net cutting, calling the pens cramped.


Information from: San Francisco Chronicle,