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Habitat protection plan for Pacific smelt

AP/Oregon Fish & Wildlife
This photo provided by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Tuesday, March 16, 2010 shows Pacific Smelt. The small silvery fish that was a staple of Northwest tribes when the Lewis and Clark expedition arrived, is getting federal protection.

NOAA Fisheries Service is proposing habitat protection for the threatened Pacific smelt. The proposal released Wednesday would designate about 292 miles of freshwater creeks, rivers and estuaries in Washington, Oregon and California as critical habitat areas.

The small silvery fish also known as eulachon or candlefish face threats from climate change, declining river flows, and shrimp fishing. The fish received federal protection last March.

KPLU's Tom Banse reported last spring on how important the smelt have been to the vitality of Northwest tribes, according to ecologist Nathan Reynolds with the Cowlitz Tribe:

"It is not as highly visible as the salmon, but it essentially is the second most important fish for all of the indian communities living along the lower Columbia River."

NOAA is planning for a public meeting scheduled  Jan. 26th  in Portland, Ore.