Rice fields provide protected habitat for young salmon

Daily Democrat –

A team of researchers is waiting to learn how many of the small chinook salmon that were raised on the healthiest of food in Mike Dewit’s rice field in the Yolo Bypass, fitted with microtransmitters, and released into the Sacramento River in late April survive the arduous journey to San Francisco Bay and the ocean beyond.

The study of the survival to adulthood of these 900 young fish is part of an ambitious three-year $1.4 million pilot project aimed at learning if the rice fields can play an important role in providing habitat for salmon, as they already do for sandhill cranes and other waterfowl.

“The growers are very much into it,” said Paul Buttner, California Rice Commission project manager for the Helping Salmon in the Sacramento Valley project. “They understand the salmon fishery in the Sacramento Valley needs help, and if the rice fields can be part of it they find that exciting.”

Growers and researchers from the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and California Trout came together to study how the fields can provide young salmon with nutritious food and protection from predators until they are ready to begin the long trip down the Sacramento River.

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