Delta Smelt Numbers Nonexistent Again In Trawl Survey

The battle for California’s Central Valley water has taken its biggest toll on fish such as spawning salmon but also a critical native species, the San Joaquin Delta smelt. The fish counts searching for the smelt have become more and more bleak. Here’s veteran outdoors reporter Dan Bacher’s report in the Daily Kos with the latest depressing results:

For the sixth year in a row, no Delta Smelt were collected in the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Fall Midwater Trawl (FMWT) Survey in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta from September through December 2023.

Once the most abundant species in the entire estuary, the Delta Smelt has declined to the point that it has become virtually extinct in the wild. The 2 to 3 inch fish, found only in the Delta, is an “indicator species” that shows the relative health of the San Francisco Bay/Delta ecosystem.

When no Delta Smelt are found in six years of a survey that has been conducted since 1967, the estuary is in a serious ecological crisis.

As CDFW explains about Delta smelt, the species was “was listed as threatened under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) in 1993. In 2009, CESA status was changed to endangered.”