View Full Version : DFG Requests Comments on Delta Smelt

Dan Bacher
01-10-2008, 10:53 PM
Delta Smelt Continues on Path towards Extinction

DFG Requests Comments on Delta Smelt as Fall Survey Data Released

Dan Bacher

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is now requesting data and comments on a petition to uplist Delta smelt under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) from "threatened" to "endangered," according to Marty Gingras, Supervising Biologist of the DFG Bay Delta Region.

The request was made on the same day that the DFG released the data from its fall midwater trawl survey. The survey results indicate that populations of delta smelt, longfin smelt, Sacramento splittail, American shad, and juvenile striped bass this fall continue on their downward spiral towards extinction. Results from the survey are posted at http://www.delta.dfg.ca.gov/data/mwt.

The Bay Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed the petition in April 2007, arguing that an uplisting of the fish was needed to prevent the fish from becoming extinct. The California Fish and Game Commission is considering the petition to uplist the species.

The Delta smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus) is a small native 2 to 3 inch fish listed as threatened under both CESA and the Federal Endangered Species Act. It is regarded as an indicator species that shows the health of the Bay-Delta Estuary.

Delta smelt, once the most abundant fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, live only in the Delta. Because the fish is listed as threatened under CESA, California law already prohibits take of Delta smelt unless authorized by DFG.

"DFG’s Fall Midwater Trawl fish survey completed in December found considerably low abundance of Delta smelt in the San Francisco Estuary and Delta," said Gingras. "The annual survey collects several small pelagic fishes from 116 sites located between San Pablo Bay and the lower reaches of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and provides data on these species."

The delta smelt abundance index, a relative measure of abundance, was the second lowest abundance on record in the fall survey, surpassed only by 2005's fall index. The index was 27 in 2005, 41 in 2006 and 28 in 2007.

The index for the longfin smelt, a cousin of the delta smelt, was the lowest on record, only 13, in contrast to 129 in 2005 and 1949 in 2006.

The abundance of juvenile striped bass was the third lowest on record, while the abundance of American shad was the lowest ever recorded. The splittail index was only 1, compared to 5 in 2005 and 4 in 2006, although there was one year that was even worse, the drought year of 1977, where no splittail were recorded in the survey.

Finally, the threadfin shad was the only fish that showed any improvement at all in the population, with an index of 3177. By comparison, the indices were 1294 in 2004, 2866 in 2005 and 2225 in 2006.

"Pursuant to the provisions of Section 2074.6 of the Fish and Game Code, DFG must complete a status review of the species and provide a written report to the Fish and Game Commission that indicates, based upon the best scientific information available, whether or not uplisting the Delta smelt from threatened to endangered under CESA is warranted," said Gingras. "DFG will submit its report to the Commission on June 20, 2008. Comments from interested and affected parties, including members of the public and local agencies, are requested by Feb. 29."

Unfortunately, the Department of Fish and Game failed for over a decade to require the State Department of Water Resources (DWR) to get an incidental take permit for killing thousands of smelt in the Delta export pumps, as required under CESA. The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance filed a lawsuit against the state of California for the failure by state agencies to obey the law - and Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch ruled in favor of the alliance last year. The Resources Agency is appealing the decision.

As a result of this lawsuit, export pumping by the state and federal governments from the Delta, for the first time in history, was curtailed last spring during the peak migration period of the smelt.

The main cause of the decline of the delta smelt and other pelagic (open water) species in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is massive increases of water exports in recent years. Unfortunately, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on January 8 during his "state of the state" address again campaigned for his fiscally irresponsible and environmentally destructive water bond proposal. His proposal would result in an even more degraded ecosystem, since it focuses on building a peripheral canal and more dams to increase water exports.

I urge everybody concerned about the future of the California Delta to submit their comments regarding why the delta smelt should be listed as "endangered" under the California Endangered Species Act.

Please send data and comments related to the petitioned action and/or the status of Delta smelt to:

DFG Supervising Biologist Marty Gingras
Department of Fish and Game
Re: Delta Smelt Petition
4001 North Wilson Way
Stockton, CA 95205
by electronic mail to: mgingras [at] dfg.ca.gov with “Re: Delta Smelt Petition” in the subject line
by fax to: (209) 946-6355, Attention: Marty Gingras, Re: Delta Smelt Petition.

01-11-2008, 01:56 AM

While I don't know much about the Delta Smelt, I do know that fingerling Stripers are VERY abundant in the California Delta. Each year, I along with dozens of my fellow anglers catch and release shaker Striped Bass on a consistent basis.

I took a quick glance at the numbers recorded in the Bee's report, and I question first and foremost WHERE DID THEY CONDUCT the collection of fish? During the spring summer and fall, all you'll catch from Pittsburg up to Knights Landing are shaker Stripers.

I'll bet if the department called on anglers for a volunteer count of all Striped Bass caught in a year, or even a six month period, they would be able to gather a lot more pertinent data as opposed to trawling ONE area, during ONE part of the year.

Sorry, just venting my frustrations.


Marty Gingras
01-13-2008, 07:50 AM
...they would be able to gather a lot more pertinent data as opposed to trawling ONE area, during ONE part of the year...

Hi all,

Please be clear that the trawls are VERY rigorous and these data are fully legitimate. *I'm not sure what Roland meant by trawling 'one area, during one time a year', but that is not at all what happens. *

The press release only mentions the final survey of the year. *We've got several different surveys (Spring Kodiak Trawl Survey; '20 mm' Survey; Summer Tow Net; Fall Midwater Trawl; Bay Study) to account for the varying size and distribution of the target species, we do pretty much the entire delta each time, and we do these throughout the year. *

The above surveys are the ones for small fish, including <1 year old striped bass. *Catch by anglers of shaker striped bass (~2-3 years old) is interesting, and something we'd like to learn more about, but would at most be complementary to the information we get from the trawls.*

So the general public can more-easily get a better understanding of the work we do, I'll put something together that briefly describes each of the surveys and post it.


Marty Gingras
Supervising Biologist (Fisheries)
California Department of Fish and Game
Bay Delta Region
4001 North Wilson Way
Stockton, California *95205

Phone (209) 948-3702
FAX * * (209) 946-6355
email * mgingras@dfg.ca.gov

01-15-2008, 08:05 AM
I know you are putting something together but isn't that information available on the Bay-Delta website?
I looked through there and it shows alot of work being done in most areas of the delta year round. I don't know how up to date some of the information is but for the long term stuff it appears not alot changes other than the numbers.