Agencies pursue hatchery for CCC coho

Saving a “Species-in-the-Spotlight” South of the Golden Gate

State and federal officials are working together to relocate and expand a small conservation fish hatchery that has helped endangered Central California Coast (CCC) coho salmon hang on in their historic habitat south of San Francisco.

NOAA Fisheries and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife agree that construction of a new and larger hatchery is essential to saving and recovering CCC coho south of the Golden Gate.

Coho salmon populations in this region have fallen to critically low levels after decades of continued decline in the small coastal streams where they spawn and rear.  NOAA Fisheries recently named CCC coho salmon as one of eight national “Species in the Spotlight” that face high risk of extinction.

Since 2001, the non-profit Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project (MBSTP) has operated a small captive broodstock and conservation program at the Kingfisher Flat Hatchery in the Scott Creek watershed of Santa Cruz County. MBSTP operates the program in collaboration with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center.  The Big Creek Lumber Company has generously provided land for the hatchery.

juvenile coho in pond at hatchery

Juvenile Central California Coast coho salmon swim in an aging rearing tank at Kingfisher Flat Hatchery in Santa Cruz County, California. Photo by David Stafford

Conservation hatcheries are designed to help rebuild fish populations, in contrast to hatcheries that produce fish for harvest. Although the Kingfisher Flat facility has been critical in saving the region’s coho salmon from extinction, the size of the facility and available water cannot support expansion of the conservation program to a level needed for species recovery.   

A New Home for the Conservation Program

In spring 2016, CDFW and NOAA Fisheries formed a technical advisory team to develop and implement a plan for a new conservation hatchery south of San Francisco. CDFW would operate and manage the new facility with support from NOAA Fisheries. The goal is to boost the abundance and populations of coho salmon and conserve their genetic diversity in streams along the Central California Coast.

CDFW and NOAA Fisheries are currently developing facility specifications such as fish production goals, the size and location of the facility and water needs, and are also working to identify and secure funding.

Resources and Public Involvement

The agencies will need considerable resources for design and construction of a new modern conservation hatchery, and for ongoing operation and maintenance.

juvenile coho in pond at hatchery
Juvenile California Coastal coho grow in rearing tanks at Kingfisher Flat Hatchery in Santa Cruz County, California. Photo by Alina Montgomery

NOAA Fisheries and CDFW are reaching out to private and public partners from the San Francisco Bay area to Monterey for support in recovering coho salmon populations south of San Francisco. Many locations with sufficient water to house a conservation facility are privately owned, so partnerships with landowners will be critical.

A new facility located close to both the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas would support outreach opportunities on the plight of CCC coho salmon and educational events for local schools and universities. A new facility would also provide space for more research to inform and improve salmon recovery in the region. 

For more information on this project or if you would like to contribute to this effort, please contact the following representatives from CDFW or NOAA Fisheries:


Stephen Swales


NOAA Fisheries

Joel Casagrande


Home page photo of juvenile coho following release from the hatchery by David Stafford