West Coast
via California Department of Fish and Wildlife

CA - Estuary in Collapse: ZERO Delta Smelt and Sacramento Splittail Reported in November CDFW Survey

For the third month in a row, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) this November found zero Delta smelt and Sacramento splittail during the 2020 Fall Midwater Trawl Survey of pelagic (open water) fish species on the Delta, although they did report an index of 22 longfin smelt rather than the zero longfin smelt they reported the two previous months.

We will see the final results for the pelagic (open water) species surveyed at the end of December or in early January after the October through December totals of Delta smelt, longfin smelt, striped bass, threadfin shad, American shad and Sacramento splittail caught in the annual trawl are tallied by the CDFW.

Once the most abundant native fish in the entire Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, no Delta Smelt were reported in the Fall MIdwater Trawl in either 2018 and 2019, due to many years of massive water exports from the Delta through the State Water Project and Central Valley Water Project, combined with toxics, invasive species and declining water quality.

Found only in the Delta, the Delta smelt is an indicator species that shows the health of the ecosystem. Decades of water exports to corporate agribusiness interests in the San Joaquin Valley and to Southern California water agencies have resulted in putting the small 2 to 3 inch fish, with a cucumber-like smell, on the verge of extinction in the wild.

Other fish didn’t fare very well in the October survey either.

The trawl also found 0 Sacramento splittail in November 2020, just as it has every October since 2012. The trawl reported 22 longfin smelt, a cousin of the Delta Smelt, an improvement over the zero longfin smelt reported over the previous two months. That compares to 4 last October.

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