Freshwater and Fish
Resource Renewal Institute has several projects underway aimed at securing and protecting the health and integrity of freshwater systems in California and around the West.
These projects are 1) the Instream Water Transfers Project; and 2) Growing Forage Fish in Rice Fields.
Creating New Conservation Tools for Freshwater:
RRI’s Instream Water Transfers Project
Water is the West’s most precious resource-- and growing urban and agricultural demand will continue to constrain environmental freshwater supply for the foreseeable future.
Yet there is an opportunity ready to be put in the people’s hands. Since water rights can be bought, sold, leased, or donated separate from the land that they’re attached to in most Western states, RRI believes that water rights holders should be able to donate some or all of their water to stay instream for environmental purposes— and earn a tax deduction because of it.
RRI is leading two major initiatives towards this goal of bringing—and keeping—more water instream in western states:
I. Secure IRS income tax deductions for voluntary instream water rights donations.
In late 2012, the Coalition is formally requesting the IRS to issue a binding Revenue Ruling regarding the tax deductibility of permanent donations of appropriative water rights.
At the same time, the Coalition has found water rights holders who are willing to be the first “test cases” to go through the process of donating all or some of their water rights. This conservation tax precedent will be a significant milestone for instream flow.
RRI and its Coalition partners have received support from U.S. Senators, regional water and land trusts, western state water and natural resource agencies, and private landowners.
II. Create the first-ever California Water Trust Network (CWTN).
RRI and charter co-partner American Rivers are working to create the first-ever California Water Trust Network to address inconsistent state and federal water transfer policies with the goal of increasing instream flows through voluntary water transfers - including acquisition, lease, and donations. The CWTN already includes over a dozen water transfers organizations and land trusts who are now coordinating at the state level for the first time.
The result of both of these efforts will be tremendous new tools for freshwater conservation, benefitting water rights holders and leading to healthier streams, creeks, and rivers for the fish, wildlife, and humans that rely on them.
Contact: Tom Hicks, Project Director. email@example.com
Growing Forage Fish in Rice Fields
The whole street rumbles and groans and screams and rattles while the silver river of fish pour in out of the boats and the boats rise higher and higher in the water until they are empty.”
--John Steinbeck, Cannery Row
Demand for Forage Fish:
The world’s feeder fish—small schooling species such as anchovy and herring that provide a critical link in the food chain between plankton and larger fish—are in severe danger due to a variety of factors, including overfishing. Put most simply, in order to have large fish there must be small fish to feed on.
Very few of the forage fish caught, such as Pacific sardines, are going to feed people directly. Most are sold as bait for Japanese long line fishing or to bluefin tuna ranches on the coasts of Mexico, Australia and Japan. In 2008, 20.8 million tons of wild fish went into fishmeal and fish oil with the major portion going to feed farmed fish. In fact, the portion of fishmeal and fish oil for aquaculture has more than doubled over the last decade, with 46% of fishmeal and fish oil fed This “low value” use of forage fish incentivizes the fishing industry to maximize harvest levels.
RRI Plan: Growing Fish in Rice Fields
Resource Renewal Institute (RRI) proposes to launch a pilot project to determine the viability of raising freshwater species to fill this market niche, thereby reducing the harvest of wild ocean feeder fish. This proposal is based on a salmon growing experiment that RRI (with UC fisheries scientists) ran in the Sacramento Delta over the last six years. RRI found that the naturally occurring plankton in flooded rice fields was a rich source of nutrients for explosive growth in young salmon—no additional feed was required. Over the course of five weeks the fish quintupled in weight and doubled in length. Once the fish and their pens were removed the field was drained and successfully grew a new rice crop. California has 600,000 acres of rice currently under cultivation and the potential is immense for a new protein source for the world and a new profit source for rice farmers.
RRI has the use of a 300-acre rice farm with abundant water and funding to begin initial research. We will involve government and university fish management agencies in developing the concept. The proposed model of rice/fish farming rotates the crops, allowing farmers to continue with normal rice production, adding fish to the rice fields after harvest when fields are fallow. The fish will be grown in flooded fields over several winter months before the new rice crop is planted.
Contact: Huey Johnson, RRI. firstname.lastname@example.org