Posted: Thursday, December 17, 2009 10:00 AM
Wheat rejected by millers could reinvigorate wild salmon populations
By MATTHEW WEAVER
An Idaho wheat commissioner is in the early stages of looking at using the crop to replenish salmon populations.
Several reports are indicating the main problem with the fish not returning up the rivers from northern California to Alaska was the lack of food in certain parts of the Pacific Ocean, said Kieth Kinzer of Genesee, Idaho, a commissioner with the Idaho Wheat Commission.
Kinzer decided to couple the situation with the issue of sprouting, low-protein, poor quality wheat that millers do not want.
Preliminary efforts are under way to determine whether the oceanic life fish feed upon, such as plankton, could use wheat as an energy source to reinvigorate the dead zones in the ocean.
Kinzer has spoken with several researchers, and hopes to hear how much money would be necessary to make such an undertaking possible.
"We have to come up with something that has real science behind it, because it's going to be a little bit of money to do," Kinzer said. "It will be a lot cheaper than retrofitting dams or everything else we've ever done. I actually believe in my heart it could be the entire answer to the entire problem."
Kinzer envisions scattering wheat along the continental shelf, from the edge of Canada down to California, using global positioning systems to make sure every area is covered.
If it works, it probably wouldn't reduce world wheat stocks, Kinzer said, but it would provide an outlet for wheat that millers don't want. Currently, such wheat is fed to cattle, he said.
It could also be another use for wheat, Kinzer said. He also pointed to commercial and sport fishing opportunities that could entail if salmon populations are reinvigorated.
"There's quite a bit of economy that could be recovered if we could simply bring back the salmon stocks to the point where they're not endangered anymore," he said.