Pelagic Organism Decline

The Interagency Ecological Program (IEP), a consortium of nine state and federal agencies, has been monitoring aquatic organisms and water quality in the San Francisco estuary for decades. Since late 2004, scientific and public attention has focused on the unexpected decline of several pelagic (open-water) fishes (delta smelt, longfin smelt, juvenile striped bass, and threadfin shad) in the freshwater portion of the estuary known as the Delta. This decline has collectively become known as the Pelagic Organism Decline (POD). In 2005, the IEP formed a multi-agency POD Management Team tasked with designing and managing a comprehensive study to evaluate the causes of the decline and to synthesize and report the results. The causes under investigation include stock-recruitment effects, a decline in habitat quality; increased mortality rates; and reduced food availability due to invasive species.

IEP logo


Local POD Work Teams follow the IEP Project Work Team model and provide open forums for presenting and discussing POD studies and results related to specific subject areas. They also provide important feedback about study outcomes and needs to the POD Management Team.

Local IEP POD Work Teams:

  • Contaminants
    • Chair: Stephanie Fong, CVRWQCB
  • Flows and Exports
    • Chairs: Ted Sommer, DWR, and Mike Chotkowski, USBR
  • Food Webs Work Team was combined with IEP Estuarine Ecology Team (EET)
    • Chair: Wim Kimmerer, SFSU-RTC

POD Work Teams at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara bring together local and international experts for in-depth, independent analysis and synthesis work in specific subject areas and a wider perspective on the POD problem.