In March, when the California Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted one of its monthly spring trawl surveys for adult smelt, it found only four females and two males hidden in the grasses of a vast network of man-made islands and channels at the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. April’s survey found a single fish. While these surveys are merely a sampling of the population, they are a shadow of previous counts: In 2012, the March survey tallied 296 fish, while the April catch was 143. When smelt numbers get too low, it makes it harder for males and females to find each other, said UC Davis’ Moyle. Another species, the longfin smelt, was also found in record-low numbers.
Efforts to stave off the fish’s demise have been pointless and magnify the human suffering of the drought, said Chris Scheuring, attorney for the California Farm Bureau Federation.
“A lot of water has been thrown at the problem, to no apparent effect,” he said. “Twenty million Californians depend on a water supply kept away from them by one small, little population of fish.”
Good riddance, wrote Fresno-based Harry Cline of the Farm Press Blog. Turning off the pumps that serve the state and federal water projects wasted about 800,000 acre-feet of water in 2013 “based on the science of four buckets of minnows. That is enough water to produce crops on 200,000 acres or 10 million tons of tomatoes; 200 million boxes of lettuce; 20 million tons of grapes.” http://www.mercurynews.com/drought/ci_27918392/california-drought-delta-smelt-survey-tallies-one-fish