Rice Farmers Team Up With Conservationists To Help Fish

Photo by Cal Trout 

Really good report from KCRA TV’s Vicki Gonzalez about Central California rice farmers are working with conservationists to combat the area’s endangered fish.

“There was once 2 million salmon that came back to the valley. What allowed that abundance is the incredible productivity of these wetlands,” Jacob Katz, with Cal Trout, said. “Now, we have about 5 percent of historical wetlands; which means we have a small percentage of the food that was once produced. Why are we surprised that we have only 5 percent of salmon and other native fish?”

Rice farmers are now working with UC Davis Watershed Sciences and Cal Trout, a conservation nonprofit, to restore native fish populations cut off from their food supply.

“We turned fields that we feed people (from) in the summertime, and then we flood them for habitat for birds, and now we are also using those fields to grow (food) for fish,” Roger Cornwell, with River Garden Farms in Yolo County, said.

During the wet season, the Sacramento River historically would swell and spill over into the floodplain, and fish would spill over as well. The natural occurrence is now largely blocked off due to levees.

“It’s a really simple thing: Sunlight makes algae. Algae makes bugs. Bugs make fish,” Katz said. “The fish would then drain back to the river with the receding floodwaters and you had this system that essentially created a big bug buffet out on the floodplain.”

There’s also a good video to with Gonzalez’s report.