Friday, May 25, 2007

Delta Smelt Suit Announcement

Lawsuit planned to protect smelt
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, May 25, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO -- Three conservation groups plan to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to secure more protection for the Delta smelt, a tiny native fish that may be on the verge of extinction.

The smelt is now "threatened" under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the groups want it uplisted to "endangered" in hopes of spurring more protections.

Early results of a spring trawl net survey found only 25 smelt, a record low and well below a seven-year average of 353. Government biologists expressed a "high degree of concern" in a May 15 memo and sought water operation changes.

The Bay Institute, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity served the wildlife service with a 60-day notice of intent to sue, based in part on the agency's failure last year to meet deadlines to consider a status change for the smelt under an earlier request.

Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Al Donner said the agency doesn't have adequate resources for a timely response to all listing requests.

-- Matt Weiser