EAST MACHIAS – The Downeast Salmon Federation, with the help from Unity College freshmen, released around 15,000 Atlantic salmon into the East Machias River.
“Salmon are endangered species, which means there aren’t many coming back to Maine. In fact, I think last year there were less than 1,000 that came back to all Maine rivers so they’re critically endangered,” said Zach Sheller, hatchery manager of the Downeast Salmon Federation.
Downeast Salmon Federation is a nonprofit organization working to restore Atlantic salmon throughout Maine.
Sheller said this is the eighth year they have raised and released Atlantic salmon.
“Downeast Salmon Federation is doing a really unique operation,” said Randall Colvin, a biology instructor at Unity College.
“They basically are taking an endangered Atlantic salmon, putting them in a hatchery and using some really novel techniques to try to restore and sustain salmon populations here in Maine.” he said.
Not only are they helping the Atlantic salmon, Downeast Salmon Federation is also giving students a chance to get hands-on experience.
On Wednesday, a group of 30 Unity students loaded the fish from the hatcheries, into the truck and finally into the river.
“We want to continue working with this hatchery and Downeast Salmon Federation because we think it’s a worth wild endeavor,” said Colvin.
“It’s a great opportunity for our students to be exposed to this type of work and to see, this is their first year, so it gives them a chance to understand what that entails,” he said.
Sheller said he hopes this experience will foster a greater appreciation for wildlife in students.
While the organization releases salmon every year, 2019 is a little bit more special.
“This is the international year of the salmon, which for us every year is the year of the salmon because that’s what we’re trying to help bring back,” Sheller said.