CRAWFORD – Efforts to restore the Atlantic Salmon fishery got another boost Wednesday.
The fish is still on the endangered species list, but the release of tens of thousands of salmon in a Washington County river is part of a plan to revive the fishery.
Atlantic salmon fishing in Downeast Maine used to draw people from all over the world. Not only did they drop their fishing lines into the river, they also dropped plenty of money in local cash registers. “There’s also a lot of intrinsic value just for people to go out and not just fish for them, but that they are there, to see the fish in the river,” said Kyle Winslow, manager of the Peter Gray Fish Hatchery in East Machias.
The Peter Gray Fish Hatchery project is modeled after successful Scottish salmon restoration plan.
“And so what we’re doing is we’re taking a ore natural approach to raising these fish,” he said.
The process includes not the time of the year the salmon are released into the river, but their size as well.
“We’re stocking them a little bit later in the year so that they’re big enough to maybe evade predators and establish themselves in their habitat before winter sets in,” Winslow said.
It was just four years ago when the first group of salmon was sent into the East Machias River.
According to Winslow, “this year because of the life cycle that the fish go through, this year would be the first year we might see some adults returning from our initial stocking effort.”
Early Wednesday afternoon, around 50,000 Parr salmon were released into the East Machias River. Parr salmon are also known as young salmon, in this case about three to three-and-a-half inches long.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assisted the crew from the hatchery in transporting the fish from the hatchery tanks in East Machias to the waters of the East Machias River in Crawford.
If this restocking effort is successful, which could take decades, the salmon would be removed from the endangered species act, re-opening the waters to fishermen.
“I mean the ultimate goal is to have Atlantic salmon returning, not just to the East Machias River, but all of these rivers Downeast,” said Winslow.