Sacramento, Calif.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reopening the public comment period on its October 2022 proposal to list the San Francisco Bay-Delta longfin smelt, a fish species along the Pacific Coast, as endangered, to allow for a public hearing as requested by partners. Comments previously submitted need not be resubmitted and will be fully considered in preparation of the final rule.
In October 2022, the Service completed a thorough review of the Bay-Delta population of longfin smelt, its habitat and current threats, and determined Endangered Species Act protections are warranted. Habitat loss due to the long-term reduction and alteration of freshwater flows into the San Francisco Bay estuary is the primary threat. Longfin smelt require specific water temperatures and adequate freshwater flows to survive.
“There’s a reason our mission includes the words, ‘Working with others’,” said Paul Souza, the Service’s Pacific Southwest Regional Director. “A public hearing is one way the Service encourages members of the community to share their voice by commenting on our agency’s actions and proposed rules.”
The longfin smelt is 3.5 to 4.3 inches long with a translucent silver appearance on its sides and gut, while its back has an olive to iridescent pinkish hue. The fish lives about two to three years, in bays and estuaries along the coast from Northern California to Alaska. The Bay-Delta longfin smelt occupies only the San Francisco Bay Estuary and areas of the Pacific Ocean out to the Farallon Islands. Bay-Delta longfin smelt are anadromous, meaning older juveniles and adults can migrate to the ocean, but must return to fresh water to spawn.
The proposed ESA protections would benefit the longfin smelt by raising awareness about threats to the species, catalyzing diverse partnerships on its behalf and inspiring creative approaches to balance water resources for people and wildlife. A healthier, more resilient ecosystem will better serve all the important functions of this vital resource including water supply, habitat, recreation and commerce.
Longfin smelt are currently listed as a threatened species under California’s Endangered Species Act, which prohibits unpermitted possession, purchase, sale or take of listed species. However, the state’s definition of take does not include harm, which under the federal ESA can include destruction of habitat.
The notice reopening the comment period will be available for public inspection in the Federal Register’s Reading Room on February 24, 2023. The notice will publish in the Federal Register on February 27, 2023, marking the reopening of a 30-day comment period. A public hearing has been scheduled for March 14, 2023, and details will be shared in a subsequent press release.
Information on how to submit comments is available at www.regulations.gov by searching under docket number: FWS–R8–ES–2022–0082.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information about our work and the people who make it happen, visit https://www.fws.gov/cno/ or connect with us via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr.