The tiny Delta Smelt is a fish no bigger than an adult’s finger, but it’s causing a giant problem for millions of Californians.

At the beginning of April, researchers spent four days searching 40 sites along the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta, looking for signs of the Delta Smelt. “Typically, dozens of smelt are found during the [S]tate Department of Fish and Wildlife’s April survey. Just three years ago, in fact, the researchers found 143 smelt.”

This year the researchers found one smelt. Just one.

“Peter Moyle, a leading expert on California’s native fishes, said…that this year’s April results are ‘shocking but not unexpected.’ Moyle previously has warned that California should prepare for the extinction of the species. It’s not unusual for fewer smelt to be found later in the spring, possibly as adults die off after spawning…But it’s simply ‘sad’ to see that no smelt were found in 39 of the 40 locations sampled, Moyle said.”

Clearly, the ongoing drought conditions, the poor water quality of the delta, and pollution have had a dramatic impact on the tiny Delta Smelt. If the smelt is finally and officially declared extinct, will the environmentalists release their decades-long iron grip on the water supply for the benefit of 40 million Californians?

Don’t hold your breath.

“Struggling to balance environmental needs against ‘substantial human suffering,’ state officials bypassed some of the water-quality requirements for smelt and other species last year and again this year. Skirting those rules likely would harm fish, they found, but not to an unreasonable extent.

Environmentalists disagree. The latest survey results make it likely that the debate will continue.”



Photo Credit: Delta Smelt