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Winter Trawl Survey – Delta Smelt 2019 Adult Spawning Run Update

A January 2, 2019 California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) memo relates that the fall midwater trawl index for Delta smelt was zero (none collected), though an attachment from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) shows that some Delta smelt were captured in late 2018 in non-index locations, as was the case in other recent years. The CDFW memo also relates that 5 smelt were captured in the December Kodiak Trawl Survey.

In an effort to update my last winter trawl post, April 2018, I present the winter survey results from 2002 through 2019 in the figure below. The 2018 and 2019 winter indices are consistent with the fall and summer surveys.

The fact that some Delta smelt remain in the Bay-Delta indicates that it might not be too late to save them from extinction, especially with hatchery supplementation. However, there has been no public description of CDFW’s or USFWS’s plan for Delta smelt recovery in 2019-2020. The present recovery plan for Delta smelt is dated 1996. USFWS should update the Delta smelt recovery plan immediately, and USFWS and CDFW should implement it. The State Water Resources Control Board’s effort to update Delta water quality standards should also include measures to recover smelt.

Chart of winter smelt survey results from 2002 through 2019