The Center for Watershed Sciences is investigating harvested rice fields as potential salmon nurseries that could help boost struggling Central Valley populations. Experimental releases of young hatchery salmon on the Yolo Bypass near Sacramento indicate that parts of the 57,000-acre floodway could make productive rearing habitat at relatively little cost to farmers.
Juveniles in flooded rice fields grew much faster and bigger than those released in the Sacramento River. Bigger juveniles survive better when they reach the ocean and are more likely to return as spawning adults.
The Center has been conducting the experiments since 2011 with a consortium of landowners, conservation groups and public agencies. The project takes its name after a Japanese form of sushi that has a slice of fish atop a compressed wedge of vinegared rice.
This UC Davis video, above, shows researchers tagging and releasing juvenile salmon on test fields in February 2013.
News coverage and commentary:
- Nigiri Project Mixes Salmon and Rice Fields for Fifth Year on Floodplain, by UC Davis news preslease, Feb. 23, 2016
- California Drought: Ray of Hope in Fish-vs.-Farmers Dispute, by Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle, March 21, 2014
- Can the Yolo Bypass floodplain be managed to nurture salmon?, by Bettina Boxall, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 25, 2013
- For fish and rice to thrive in Yolo Bypass, ‘just add water’, UC Davis news release, Oct. 24, 2013
- Innovations in floodplain modeling: A test-drive on the Yolo Bypass, by William Fleenor and Robyn Suddeth, California WaterBlog, Oct. 18, 2013
- A sweet spot for farms and fish on a floodplain, by Richard Howitt and Josué Medellín-Azuara, The Davis Enterprise, May 19, 2013
- The benefits of floodplain reconnection, by Jeffrey Mount, California WaterBlog, Aug. 11, 2011
- Frolicking fat floodplain fish feeding furiously, by Carson Jeffres, California WaterBlog, June 2, 2011