Feds to finalize ESA decision for longfin smelt

By Michael Doyle | 04/26/2024 01:26 PM EDT

The small fish occupy the San Francisco Bay Estuary in California.

Longfin smelt.

Young longfin smelt, which can be found from the San Francisco Bay to the Cook Inlet in Alaska. Bureau of Reclamation/Flickr

A federal judge on Thursday finalized a settlement under which the Fish and Wildlife Service will finally decide whether a population of longfin smelt will get Endangered Species Act protections, like some other smelt that have long complicated California’s water politics.

Pressured by a missed-deadline lawsuit filed by an environmental advocacy group, the federal agency committed to making a final ESA listing decision by July 22 for the longfin smelt’s San Francisco Bay-Delta distinct population segment.

The Fish and Wildlife Service in October 2022 proposed listing the longfin smelt population as endangered. Under the ESA, the agency then had one year to make a final determination whether to list the species or not. The Fish and Wildlife Service missed the deadline, prompting the environmental organization San Francisco Baykeeper to file suit in December 2023.


“It’s been a long time coming,” Jon Rosenfield, science director for San Francisco Baykeeper, said in an interview Friday. “The federal government has delayed protection of an obviously endangered fish for a decade and half. We’ve had to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service every step along the way to get this protection.”