Saturday, July 23, 2011

Delta smelt, the indicator species

Delta smelt is a species of fish in the Osmeridae family.  The media often calls it a minnow, Cyprinidae family, which is completely wrong.  Minnows are fishes like goldfish and shiners and are really hardy.  Delta smelt, on the other hand, are sensitive to environmental changes which makes it a great indicator of water quality and pollution.  By calling it a "3-inch minnow", the talking heads are trivializing the importance of this fish and are forgetting the bigger picture.  What they are glossing over is the fact that the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is in poor health; the alarming decline of Delta smelt should be a wake-up call.  Unfortunately, the loudest mouths in the media often drown out reasonable arguments.  The painting above left is titled "Smeltdown in the Delta" (SOLD), a phrase I borrowed from the Center for Biological Diversity.  The one on the right is titled "Cousins".

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