Delta Smelt Essay

1975 Words8 Pages
The petite delta smelt has proven as a significant species indicator as to the environmental conditions in the San Francisco Bay-Delta, an imperative ecological estuary that serves as a central aspect to the utility of California’s water system. This endangered species only measures an approximate 5 to 7 cm in length and primarily inhabits northern California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin estuary. The life cycle of the smelt does not commonly exceed one-year, reflective of their fairly low fecundity. This fish species is highly affected by environmental changes within its native habitat. Fluctuating conditions of their habitat has led to a massive population decline. “Saving the smelt” has ignited tremendous controversy over the measures considered for saving their species. When considering the deep ecologist perspective, there is an obvious need to assure the safety of the delta smelt, despite the negative effect upon the economic standing of those dependent on water from the large pumps of the estuary. Efforts to protect the endangered fish from further decline have focused on limiting or modifying the large-scale pumping activities of state and federal water projects at the southern end of the estuary. Recognized by many as the “smeltdown in the Delta,” the extinction trajectory of delta smelt, has left the once-abundant species in critical condition due to record-high water diversions, pollutants, and harmful nonnative species that thrive in the damaged delta habitat. The delta smelt is semelparous, living one year and dying after its first spawning. Delta smelt spawning occurs in spring in river channels and tidally influenced backwater sloughs upstream of the mixing zone where saltwater meets freshwater. This shift in the species center of abundance arises from the fact that while the delta smelt is a saltwater tolerant species, it is seldom found where sea

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