Delta smelt numbers rise in recent survey catch

The imperiled fish that has been at the center of California's water wars may be at its highest numbers in a decade, judging by the results of a recent survey.

Every month in the fall, state biologists tow nets in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, sampling for the threatened delta smelt to estimate the native fish's population. The September catch this year, though still small by historic standards, was the biggest since 2001, when the numbers of smelt and other delta fish started to plunge to dangerously low levels, triggering cutbacks to water customers in the Central Valley and Southern California.

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Photo: Numbers of delta smelt were at their highest in a decade in a September survey. The threatened fish has been a key component in water cutbacks in Southern California. Credit: University of California / May 15, 2008.

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