[env-trinity] Delta Smelt KGO7

Byron bwl3 at comcast.net
Fri Feb 3 11:57:41 PST 2006


Smelt In Danger Of Extinction

KGO - TV Channel 7, Bay Area - 2/3/06

Written and produced by Ken Miguel


Feb. 2 - KGO - Scientists in the Sacramento Delta are saying that a species
of fish is coming dangerously close to extinction. If it disappears, it may
be a sign of a greater ecologic catastrophe -- and it all rests on the back
of a little fish.


The Delta smelt may look like any small fish you'd find in the Sacramento
Delta. But it is listed as a threatened species, one that scientists have
watched closely for nearly 50 years. 


Dr. Tina Swanson, senior scientist, Bay Institute: "They are considered to
be one of the best overall indicators of the ecological health of the


Dr. Tina Swanson is with the Bay Institute, a non-profit research,
education, and advocacy organization. She is among a growing number of
scientists who are alarmed by a State Fish and Game study released in
October that showed the delta smelt population has fallen to an all-time


Dr. Swanson: "They were at such low number that many scientists consider
this species to be at great risk for extinction in the next few years." 


There may be a variety of causes for the dramatic drop. Invasive species
like the Asian clam may be eating their food, toxic pesticides may be
flowing into the estuary and the man-made levees that divert miles of water
may be making the water too fast for them to lay eggs. 


But some scientists blame the massive pumps that feed the California
aqueduct. This is where water from the delta is pumped south to supply
millions of Californians with water. 


State water officials say the system is fish-friendly and say there may be a
number of reasons for the decline. 


Doug Thompson, Department of Water Resources: "It could be just a trend that
they are going through now. Numbers fluctuate from year to year depending on
the water year, how much runoff we get, temperature, predatory fish -- it
could be a lot of different things that are all involved in it." 


Jim Odom, Skinner Fish Facility: "This year we've actually only seen --
actually physically seen two delta smelt." 


Jim Odom is in charge of the Skinner Fish Facility -- a screening complex
upstream from the pumping station designed to keep fish from being captured
and sent down the aqueduct. 


The fish that squeeze past one screen are corralled by a second set of
screens where they are piped into holding tanks. Those tanks are strained
for fish which are then released back into the delta. 


Jim Odom: "The water that actually passed threw here is actually fish free.
There are some small fish that get through." 


Dr. Joan Lindberg is worried that those small fish may include the offspring
of the delta smelt. Lindberg runs the Delta Smelt Aquaculture Program in


Joan Lindberg, Delta Smelt Aquaculture Program: "The fish are small and they
pass right through the screen and there's no really effort to screen those
smaller fish out so larvae would pass right through there and they would
have no estimate of how many." 


The Aquaculture Program is studying, among other things, the screening
process and the effect it may be having on the fish. Scientists say now is
the time to act, before it's too late for the delta smelt. 


"We have the possibility of making good progress to approve the overall
ecosystem which would be good not only for delta smelt, but for all the
other animals that live in the delta as well." 




Byron Leydecker

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

Advisor, California Trout, Inc

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 ph

415 383 9562 fx

bwl3 at comcast.net

bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org





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