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Environment

Delta Smelt Populations Plummet

adult_delta_smelt_found_on_kodiak_trawl.jpg
Amy Quinton
/
Capital Public Radio
File photo

This is the worst year in history for populations of the tiny threatened fish that’s often on the frontline in California’s water wars. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has found a mere handful of Delta smelt in its January and February trawls.

The department caught seven fish in January and six in February. UC Davis fish biologist Peter Moyle says catches have historically been in the hundreds.

Moyle: “These numbers are unprecedented in how low they are, it seems very unlikely that fish the smelt can recover. I would like to be optimistic about this but these numbers are really low and the fish are very scattered they’re not even getting very many at the pumping plant.”

Those pumps carry water from the Delta to the Central Valley and southern California. CDFW says the Delta smelt has suffered significantly in the drought. But the agency remains optimistic the fish can recover if the Delta gets enough water.