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Conservationists Take Action over Endangered Fish

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CALIFORNIA, US - Conservationists are threatening to sue the authorities and appeal to the state for emergency action as delta mmelt spiral towards extinction.

The Bay Institute, Center for Biological Diversity, and Natural Resources Defense Council has sent a 60-day notice letter of intent to sue the US Fish and Wildlife Service for violating the Endangered Species Act by failing to respond to a March 2006 petition requesting changing the federal listing of the critically imperiled delta smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus) from a threatened to an endangered species.

Natural Reseources Defense Council (NRDC) adds that the groups also sent an urgent request letter today to the California Fish and Game Commission requesting that the agency reconsider an emergency state listing of endangered for the delta smelt under the California Endangered Species Act.

California Department of Fish and Game data released this month on juvenile delta smelt abundance from 2007 indicate a staggering, possibly fatal drop in the delta smelt population. Spring trawl surveys looking for juvenile smelt in the Delta from March through May found just 25 juvenile delta smelt, the smallest number ever recorded, and most trawls caught no smelt at all. Juvenile smelt numbers are 92 per cent lower than in 2006, which was a record low. So far this year, the federal pumps in the Delta have killed nearly three times more young delta smelt than have been collected during the entire survey. On 15 May, the Delta Smelt Working Group, comprised of agency biologists, declared that delta smelt are 'critically imperiled' and that an 'emergency response' is warranted.

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