Delta smelt could join endangered list, state officials say
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The delta smelt could soon join the endangered species list, an upgrade from their current ‘threatened’ status, the Associated Press reports:
Authorities with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say they’re beginning the official process that could prompt the tiny silver fish to be listed as ‘endangered.’ If its status changes from ‘threatened’ to ‘endangered,’ that means wildlife officials fear the delta smelt could go extinct. Officials said the decision to begin the information-gathering process is unrelated to a federal court order to limit the amount of water pumped from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to safeguard the fish. Wildlife officials said today that threats to the species’ well-being may have increased since 1993, when it first received federal protections.
A 60-day comment period on the proposed change ends Sept. 8, the AP reports. (The photo at right, taken in 1996, shows scores of captive 3-inch-long delta smelt in a research laboratory tank at UC Davis.)
A Central Valley lawmaker wants the state to build a hatchery to boost the smelt’s flagging population. Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter) has proposed a Delta Smelt Preservation and Restoration Act with the primary goal of building at least one hatchery by 2011 to breed the fish.
And in other smelt news, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said earlier this year that it would review the status of the longfin smelt to determine whether it is a threatened or endangered species.
-- Francisco Vara-Orta