FWS moves closer to listing the Delta smelt as endangered
73 Fed. Reg. 39639 (Thursday, July 10, 2008)(DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR; Fish and Wildlife Service; 50 CFR Part 17; Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Finding on a Petition To Reclassify the Delta Smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus) From Threatened to Endangered; Notice of 90-day petition finding and initiation of status review).
Delta smelt are slender-bodied fish, generally about 2 to 3 inches long, nearly translucent with a steely blue sheen to their sides. They feed primarily on small planktonic (free floating) crustaceans, and occasionally on insect larva and they are endemic to (native and restricted to) the San Francisco Bay / Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary (Delta) in California. Once one of the most common pelagic (living in open water away from the bottom) fish in the upper Sacramento-San Joaquin Estuary, delta smelt population levels declined precipitously from 1982 to 1991, stabilized during the period from 1992 to 2001, and substantially dropping again from 2002 through 2007. Photo by Rene Reyes, available from U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce a 90-day finding on a petition to reclassify the delta smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus) from threatened to endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). We find that the petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that reclassification of the delta smelt from threatened to endangered may be warranted. Therefore, we are initiating a status review to determine if reclassifying this species as endangered under the Act is warranted. To ensure that the status review is comprehensive, we are soliciting scientific and commercial data and other information regarding this species. DATES: To allow us adequate time to conduct this review, we request that information be submitted to us on or before September 8, 2008.
NOTEWORTHY EXCERPT: The petition notes that water diversions, particularly from the large Federal and State pumping stations in the southern portion of the Delta, can modify the smelt’s habitat in three ways. First, they remove planktonic food organisms out of the water. Second, they diminish freshwater outflows, causing the mixing zone to move upstream and away from Suisun Bay where the best rearing habitat is located. Third, the large Federal and State pumps can actually halt and reverse flows in the southern Delta, potentially interfering with both the transport of plankton and smelt larvae downstream and with the spawning migration of adult smelt upstream. The petition also notes that the diversions entrain and kill smelt directly… As a consequence, we conclude that substantial information is provided to indicate that reclassification of delta smelt from threatened to endangered due to destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat may be warranted… Given that delta smelt abundance indices from 2002 through 2007 have been at record lows, we conclude that substantial information is presented in the petition to indicate that reclassification of delta smelt from threatened to endangered due to the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms may be warranted.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, see L.A. Times.