FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -- The Fish and Wildlife Service says it won't list California's delta smelt as endangered for now, but will classify the native fish among species that are candidates for higher federal protection.

The federal agency announced Friday that an endangered listing is warranted for the smelt, but will have to be put off as officials address higher priority species first.

The finding won't change existing protections for the fish or have any practical impact on water flows in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta because the smelt already are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The silvery, finger-sized fish were once among the most common species in the freshwater estuary. The agency says the most recent estimate for the population was the lowest ever recorded -- about one-tenth the level found in 2003.

Copyright 2010 The AP.

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