Baykeeper Puts Federal Agency on Notice: Will Sue to Uphold Endangered Species Act

Fish and Wildlife Missed Congressional Deadline to Protect Longfin Smelt 


Oakland, California—San Francisco Baykeeper today put the US Fish and Wildlife Service on notice that the environmental advocacy organization intends to sue the agency for violating the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The agency proposed listing the SF Bay-Delta population of longfin smelt as an endangered species in 2022, but it has failed to meet a deadline established by Congress in the ESA to make a final listing determination or to designate what counts as critical habitat for the imperiled fish. 


The agency’s proposal to list longfin smelt is the result of a series of petitions to and lawsuits against the agency, going back to 1992. The most recent monitoring data for longfin smelt in San Francisco Bay shows that populations have crashed more than 99 percent, compared to when monitoring first started in 1967.     

The agency now has 60 days to make the necessary rulings in order to avoid another Baykeeper lawsuit to protect the fish.


“The Fish and Wildlife Service needs to do its job and stick to the legal deadlines,” said Baykeeper’s managing attorney, Eric Buescher. “As the Bay’s lawyers, Baykeeper is going to hold them accountable.” 


”Baykeeper and its allies have had to sue the agency for decades to secure an endangered listing for longfin smelt,” Buescher added. “It’s disappointing—but unfortunately not surprising—that we may have to take legal action again to hold the agency to its mandate. Longfin smelt need federal protection to survive, and they are entitled to protection under the law. We can’t let government inaction drive this species into extinction.” 


San Francisco Baykeeper defends the Bay and its watershed against its biggest threats. Its team of lawyers, scientists, and advocates holds polluters and government agencies accountable and has achieved a winning record for over 30 years. Baykeeper is the only organization that regularly patrols the Bay by boat and drone to investigate pollution and harmful activities. For more information, visit: