Farmers, researchers fatten fish in rice fields

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Rice field workers. (Photo: California Conservation)

Rice field workers. (Photo: California Conservation)

WOODLAND, Calif. (AP) — After decades of watching California wetlands disappear as they were filled in for farming, conservation groups say they’re having success reversing some of the negative impacts on the sensitive salmon populations.

Farmers and biologists collaborated this winter to place young salmon in winter-flooded rice fields to mimic the vast marshlands that originally lined the rivers of the Central Valley when the fish thrived in their natural habitat.

On Wednesday they discovered that those fish fattened seven times faster and had superior survival rates than their kin caught upstream in the Sacramento River channel.

The experiment is designed to mimic historic salmon habitat. Researchers say bigger fish have a better chance of escaping predators, thrive in the ocean and return to spawn.

The experiment took place in the Yolo Bypass northwest of Sacramento.

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