We are pleased to report that we now have 9,000 baby salmon placed into winter-flooded rice fields as part of the second year of the California Rice Salmon Pilot Project. These fish are in eight specially-prepared test plots in a living scientific experiment designed to determine if any unique extra treatments, such as deep channels or vegetative cover, make these fish food-rich rice fields even better habitat for these young salmon. Later this season, they will swim off for their journey towards the Golden Gate, and about 1,000 will be tracked with sophisticated, surgically-implanted tracking devices in a truly cutting-edge scientific study.
We already know that the young salmon grow very fast in these fields. This experiment will help inform us about how we might design a future practice standard to maximize their growth and survivability. If successful, we could someday be using rice fields to do for fish what we’ve already done for waterbirds for decades—take habitat that is already great for wildlife and make it even better.
Here’s a video that shows the work to get the salmon in at River Garden Farms:
We are thankful for our key partners and financial sponsors in this project, including USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Syngenta, S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, Almond Board of California, Valent, GrowWest, Corteva Agriscience, NovaSource, UC Davis, California Trout, Northern California Water Association, River Garden Farms, Conaway Ranch, and Cal Marsh & Farm Ventures. And, of course, we could not have executed these two years of field work without hatchery salmon provided to us by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in 2019 and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for this year’s work.