California Delta Smelt Near Extinction
When surveys began in 2002, biologist estimated a Delta Smelt population around 112,000 and this year that population has dropped to 13,000.
To many in the environmental community, the Smelt are viewed as a species indicative of the overall health of the Delta and this has made it a point of contention between various groups – agriculture, farmworkers and environmentalist.
Speaking at a rally in late May in Fresno, Donald Trump said farmers were being needlessly harmed “to protect a certain kind of three-inch fish.”
“You have a water problem that is so insane,” Trump said to cheering crowds at a rally that drew thousands. “It is so ridiculous where they’re taking the water and shoving it out to sea.”
Before dropping out of the Republican presidential race, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas also mocked environmental protections for the Delta smelt, saying “three-inch fish go great with cheese and crackers.”
Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, said the continued decline in Delta smelt numbers shows it’s pointless to curtail pumping without addressing other issues such as Delta water quality and habitat.
“Those things are the things that need to happen, besides continuing to reduce water supply deliveries to water users,” Wade said. “We’ve faced this for a decade, but what’s it gotten us? It hasn’t gotten us any more Delta smelt.”