Documentary film on local salmon fisheries and CZU Fire impact will premiere

The Fisheries Collaborative Program at UC Santa Cruz and the Seymour Marine Discovery Center are partnering to celebrate all things salmon during Salmon Week, May 15-21.

The Santa Cruz County community and ecosystem have a relationship with salmon that goes back centuries and persists in a meaningful way today. Recognizing the ecological niche the species holds on the Central Coast, the week’s events will highlight how scientists and conservation-focused organizations are protecting fish, restoring habitat, and reestablishing the essential roles salmon fill in the ecosystem and local economy. 

“Southern Range: Salmon in the Santa Cruz Mountains,” a documentary about salmon in Santa Cruz County, will make its world premiere during Salmon Week. The film was produced by the Seymour Center and the Fisheries Collaborative Program at UCSC with documentary filmmaker Kyle Baker to explore the connections the community has with salmon and the impact of the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex Fires on this endangered population.

“I fell in love with salmon in the Pacific Northwest, where the wild runs are reliably abundant. Down here at the outer reaches of their range, salmon face unique challenges and are increasingly reliant upon human efforts to keep their relatively small populations afloat,” Baker said.  “Some of these efforts are what we try to document in the film as we ask: what’s working? What’s not? What can we learn from salmon? And how can we be better neighbors in our shared landscape?” 

The local coho salmon population has declined as much as 95% from their historic population levels, according to researchers. The southern-most salmon population is on the brink of extinction, which would be a tremendous loss culturally and economically. This population is a unique genetic resource, reflecting adaptations to historically drought-prone conditions that will continue to move northward with ongoing climate change.

“Salmon have been an important part of life in Santa Cruz for centuries,” said Jonathan Hicken, executive director of the Seymour Marine Discovery Center at UCSC. “As the population has become threatened, scientists and activists have poured their hearts into understanding and protecting this fish, and we want to provide a setting where the community can explore its relationship with salmon and learn what is being done to support the species.”

Salmon Week Schedule

  • Science Sunday, Sunday, May 15, 1:30-3 p.m. A UC Santa Cruz adjunct professor and NOAA researcher will present “Coming Home: Decoding the Mysteries of Migration in Salmon and Trout.” The lecture by John Carlos Garza, Ph.D., will be offered both in-person and virtually from 1:30-2:30 p.m. In-person lecture attendees are invited to join a small, onsite reception with non-alcoholic beverages and small nibbles from 2:30-3 p.m. Attendees will have the chance to meet Dr. Garza and ask him questions. Learn more:
  • Pop-up Kelp Exhibit Opening, Wednesday, May 18 Jennifer Parker and OpenLabs at UC Santa Cruz created an interactive marine algae exhibit highlighting different species of the Monterey Bay. Kelp forests and marine algae ecosystems play an important role in the salmon lifecycle. The exhibit, on display at the Seymour Center, will show the beauty of kelp and its importance to salmon.
  •  Salmon Film Premiere and Q&A, Thursday, May 19, 6-7:30 p.m. Experience “Southern Range: Salmon in the Santa Cruz Mountains,” a film exploring the connections the Santa Cruz community has with salmon as well as the impact of the CZU Lightning Complex Fires on the endangered fish population. The hybrid premiere event will begin with the 30-minute documentary, followed by a panel discussion and question-and-answer session featuring filmmaker Kyle Baker, UC Santa Cruz professor and science advisor Eric Palkovacs, and Lisa Lurie, Executive Director of the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County. Marla Novo, director of exhibits and programs at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, will moderate the discussion.
  • Seymour Center Member Meet-up, Friday, May 20, 9 a.m. to noon Eric Palkovacs, Ph.D., will lead a field excursion at Scott Creek for Seymour Center members. The experience will include a short hike in the Scott Creek watershed followed by a private screening of “Southern Range: Salmon in the Santa Cruz Mountains.”
  • World Fish Migration Day Festival, Saturday, May 21, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Engage with UC Santa Cruz researchers sharing science and community organizations highlighting how they protect and maintain the local fishery at this family-friendly festival at the Seymour Center. Enjoy food trucks, including Ocean2Table, as well as a salmon obstacle course, and arts and crafts. The event is free with admission to the Seymour Center.  

Salmon Week is sponsored by the Repass-Rodgers Family Foundation. For more information about Salmon Week, including how to register for the Science Sunday lecture, visit