Update on the 2022–23 Salmon Project Fieldwork Season

It has been about six weeks since we con­clud­ed our field­work and drained our Rice­lands Salmon Project field. Our pri­ma­ry objec­tive was to prac­tice the draft salmon man­age­ment prac­tice on a full-sized rice field and assess the extent to which nat­ur­al-ori­gin or “wild” salmon used the 125-acre Sut­ter Bypass rice field after the flood­wa­ters had reced­ed.  A spe­cial shout-out goes to Steve Nead­er for the use of his fields and his con­tin­ued will­ing­ness to devote his time and ener­gy into help­ing to us to test-out the draft man­age­ment prac­tice.

We count­ed 389 wild salmon, like­ly rep­re­sen­ta­tive of all four runs.  How­ev­er, we must wait for genet­ic results to con­firm how many of each run we col­lect­ed.  Due to a sec­ond bypass flood event in mid-March, we were unable to drain the whole field and count every fish as they exit­ed the field.  How­ev­er, based upon the cap­ture of near­ly 400 wild salmon, we esti­mate there were at least 4,000 wild salmon that used the project field and prob­a­bly much more.  These are very excit­ing results.  

This field season’s field­work, with near per­fect bypass flood­ing con­di­tions, enabled us to demon­strate our abil­i­ty to safe­ly imple­ment the man­age­ment prac­tice with fed­er­al­ly-list­ed runs of salmon (win­ter- and spring-run) in the field.  Using an addi­tion­al 4,500 PIT-tagged hatch­ery salmon, we also repli­cat­ed pre­vi­ous years’ results by demon­strat­ing that the fish moved freely through all checks of the field using the spe­cial­ly-mod­i­fied rice box­es allow­ing for fish pas­sage.

We and the UC Davis team of sci­en­tists work­ing the project con­tin­ue to track our spe­cial­ly-tagged salmon as they are mov­ing through the low­er Sacra­men­to Val­ley, in route to the ocean. Of the 462 tagged fish released, near­ly 30 per­cent have made it out to the San Fran­cis­co Bay as of the date of this report.

Recent­ly, KPIX CBS News Bay Area fea­tured CRC’s Envi­ron­men­tal Affairs/Ricelands Salmon Project Man­ag­er Paul But­tner and UC Davis researcher Andrew Rypel in a TV news sto­ry. 

WATCH: Researchers rais­ing salmon in rice fields to save dwin­dling pop­u­la­tion

Week­ly field reports, videos, pic­tures and a link to Cal­Fish­Track can be found at the Rice­lands Salmon Project web­site:  Ssalmon.CalRice.org/field-news/

Final­ly, we want to thank our major funders—USDA’s Nat­ur­al Resources Con­ser­va­tion Ser­vice, Syn­gen­ta, State Water Contractors—and many oth­er sup­port­ing project spon­sors list­ed on the project web­site for mak­ing this project pos­si­ble.

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