FORT BRAGG, 7/5/22 — Although Saturday was foggy and rainy, it didn’t stop attendees from enjoying Fort Bragg’s unique and iconic Fourth of July celebration: the World’s Largest Salmon BBQ. Held each year on the first Saturday in July, the event draws crowds from far and wide to enjoy delicious grilled salmon and hear live music in Noyo Harbor. But the event also supports salmon restoration on the North Coast.
The hard work of volunteers to catch, slice, season, cook, and grill salmon benefits the Salmon Restoration Association, which works hard to revitalize and improve salmon populations in Northern California. Past proceeds have benefitted the Mendocino Land Trust’s salmon stream restoration on the Noyo River, the Eel River Recovery Project’s salmon monitoring efforts, and Mendocino High School’s School of Natural Resources or SONAR program, among other efforts.
Many volunteers cooking Coho salmon on Saturday work with the California Conservation Corps. In recent years, in addition to fire prevention work, the corps has focused heavily on revitalizing salmon runs. One corps member, Pablo Aguilar, worked on salmon restoration projects to anchor logs in the Eel River, making parts of the river more hospitable to salmon.
“We cross logs so the current can undercut the soil below it, so the flow of the river is not super fast and the salmon can rest when they’re juveniles running up the stream,” he explained. Though taking on these large projects without using any power tools is “tough work,” he said it’s worth it not to disturb the habitat.
Leonardo Garibaldi, a former commercial fisherman from Oroville with a vested interest in seeing salmon repopulate in the rivers and streams here, said salmon restoration work helps make the route to the ocean more survivable for the fish.
“What they do is really, really instrumental to the cause,” he said. Garibaldi has been volunteering his time at the salmon barbecue over the past six years.
“They’re becoming depleted. The salmon is very endangered,” he explained, adding that he comes out here to work the barbecue because, “You always got to give back whenever you can.”
In addition to grill after grill of delicious salmon, corn, hot dogs, and hamburgers were also on offer Saturday – and the picnic benches and parking lot were filled to the brim.
Kate Fishman is a Report For America fellow covering the environment & natural resources for The Mendocino Voice. Her position is funded by the Community Foundation of Mendocino, Report for America, & our readers. You can support Kate’s work here or email [email protected]. TMV maintains editorial control. You can reach her with news tips at [email protected] or at (707) 234-7735.