Wednesday January 24, 2024

US Bureau of Reclamation

The group of low-slung, nondescript buildings in a remote corner of San Joaquin County near Tracy are hardly noticeable and are not open to the public.

Inside, scientists are cultivating a slender, silvery minnow-like fish species with the aim of staving off its extinction, and reverse the course of decline of the long-troubled Delta smelt.

Those familiar with the plight of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta need no introduction to the Delta smelt. Derided by some pundits as a worthless bait fish whose existence stymies water deliveries, the once-plentiful smelt’s tale is one of the estuary’s woes. Found nowhere else on the planet, its numbers have plummeted, an indication of the many changes in the Delta ecosystem that negatively affect native fishes.

This translucent fish lives in the open water of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and completes its lifecycle in about a year. They hatch, mature and reproduce within the slightly salty to freshwaters of the Delta.

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