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The Delta Smelt; a Fish More Important Than People

Essay by   •  August 30, 2011  •  Term Paper  •  1,476 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,829 Views

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The Delta smelt; a fish more important than people.

Many farmers are loosing water over a little fish. In this community the main job that most people have is farming. The recent restrictions on water flow from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta caused this devastation and thus prevented farmers from watering their crops. The Endangered Species Act prohibits the government from doing anything that jeopardizes the continued existence of endangered or threatened species, and it forbids any government agency, corporation or citizen from harming, harassing or killing endangered animals without a permit.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a connection of several rivers and streams in northern California, sits east of the San Francisco Bay and south of Sacramento. The Delta includes over "1,100 miles of levees" that protect "about 57 islands" (U.S. 1). The Delta's unique value provides water for the whole state of California and the U.S. Geological Survey, an unbiased science organization, claims the Delta as the "heart of a north-to-south water delivery system" (U.S. 2). Since 1850, engineers shaped and reformed the Delta into vast channels and levees for farmers to benefit from this natural resource

However, within the past three years, the restrictions on pumping the water to farmers increased due to environmental causes, such as a decrease in the Delta smelt fish numbers. In 2007, the California Fish and Game Commission declared the longfin smelt an endangered species and a federal judge made the decision that the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta must reduce its pumping by thirty-percent in order to protect the fish. These two-inch-long fish caused a controversy that led to the cutback of water deliveries, adding up to a million acre-feet of water for two-thirds of California's people (Part 2 of Hannity).

The Department of Fish and Game argued for the protection of the smelt since, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, the fish near extinction because the 2008 survey resulted the lowest in forty-two years of surveys. The "once-abundant" (Longfin) fish species "are in critical condition" - close to extinction - due to pollution, "record- high water diversions" (Longfin), and "harmful nonnative species that thrive in degraded the Delta habitat. The effects of this extinction caused a ripple effect, "formally abundant species at the base of the food chain are being driven to extinction, Central Valley salmon have been crippled, and the endangered population of the West Coast killer whales has been affected," says Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity (qtd. in Longfin).

According to some scientists, from the Center for Biological Diversity, the smelt's extinction encompasses a big issue as it affects other species and the rest of the ecosystem. However, the importance of continuing the water flow to farmers to keep the crops producing for the world becomes a greater priority. The agricultural industry makes a huge impact on the whole world. Daily, the world enjoys dinner meals on the table produced by the farmers. My grandfather taught me the importance of the contribution of agriculture: the agriculture industry provides food for millions of people in the state, in our country, and throughout the world. However, the world would not have food if there were not a supply of water to irrigate the crops. The cutbacks on water will decrease the supply of food, and therefore create a shortage.

This year's drought significantly affected California's economy. According to California's Department of Food and Agriculture, "As of July 11, 2008, California has lost $245 million in crop losses, with Fresno County suffering the largest amount at $73.5 million and Kern at $69.5 million in losses." Every dollar generated in agriculture brings about four dollars in all related industries such as transportation and processing. Since 2001, the number of farms in California decreased from 81,000 acres to 75,000 acres. With the decrease in crop acreage, less food contributes to the food supply and, consequently, the food becomes more expensive.

The shortage of water angered many people as it took away their food and jobs. In March of 2009, farmers, congressmen, and those involved in the agriculture industry started the "March for Water" rallies that protested the cutbacks and reduction of pumping water. One of the rallies welcomed Sean Hannity, a talk show host for his own show, the "Hannity Show" on Fox News. Although Hannity did not grow up in an agriculture area, he supports the March for Water with other conservatives like him. He broadcasted a water rally held in Huron, CA, on the Westside of the Central Valley. Hannity made the rally a special TV program titled "The Valley Hope Forgot."

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