New England Conservation Director
1/22/2004 -- Washington -- The National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council (NRC) this week identified “urgent” actions to reverse the depletion of wild Atlantic salmon, a federally listed endangered species. The NRC policy recommendations include those advocated for years by Trout Unlimited (TU), including:
• A program of systemic dam removal, designed to eliminate obstacles to the passage of migrating salmon, should start immediately.
• Hatcheries should be used sparingly to increase the salmon population.
When hatcheries are used, their focus should be to preserve the genetic diversity of remaining wild salmon populations by providing them with a secure place to grow, if necessary.
• Stocking streams with salmon or nonnative fishes should be avoided, because they may mate with or crowd out wild salmon, or out-compete them for food.
• Mitigating the effects of acid rain on Maine’s salmon rivers, including a pilot stream-liming project to reduce stream acidity to promote salmon recovery.
• Improved monitoring of water quality and better efforts to prevent farmed salmon from escaping are essential.
• Fishing for wild Atlantic salmon should continue to be prohibited.
• A comprehensive decision-analysis approach should be established to prioritize and coordinate efforts to restore the salmon.
“The good news is that the NAS has identified the same priorities that TU, other conservation groups, the state of Maine, and federal agencies are already working on,” said Jeff Reardon, TU New England Conservation Director. “The bad news is that we have nowhere near the resources we need to implement the NAS recommendations.”
The report identified the Penobscot River, Maine’s largest, as critical to U.S. Atlantic salmon survival: “Since most Maine salmon are now in the Penobscot River, that population should be a primary focus for rehabilitating the species in Maine.” The report also called the recently announced Penobscot Partnership “encouraging.”
The Penobscot Partnership is a working agreement among TU and other conservation groups, the Penobscot Indian Nation, the state of Maine, the Department of the Interior, and the dams’ owner, Pennsylvania Power and Light Corporation, to remove two dams and bypass a third on the river. An estimated $50 million will be needed to implement the partnership’s goals.
TU called for additional funding to implement the NAS recommendations. “These recommendations, in conjunction with the initiative to remove the Penobscot dams, represent the last best chance for Atlantic salmon recovery, but they cannot be accomplished without significant new resources,” said Leon Szeptycki, TU Eastern Conservation Director. “A good first step would be to secure funding to implement the Penobscot Partnership.”
The NRC report was requested and funded by Congress in the wake of the 2000 decision to list Atlantic salmon runs in eight Maine rivers as endangered. The report, and an interim report released in 2002, confirms that the science behind the listing was sound and that immediate action is needed to prevent the extinction of the last remaining runs of Atlantic salmon in the United States.
Mission: Trout Unlimited is North America’s leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization, dedicated to the conservation, protection and restoration of trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds. The organization has more than 130,000 members in 450 chapters in North America.