Sunday, June 30, 2013

Alewives return to St. Croix, spurring optimism about ecosystem recovery

A year ago, I wrote about the strange case of the alewives of the St. Croix River, which forms the border between Maine and the Canadian province of New Brunswick. The schooling fish -- which many ecologists regard as a key forage fish -- has been banned from the river since 1995 by an act of the Maine state legislature, a move based on scant science and poor politics. Many were pushing for the fishways on key river dams to be opened.

Fast forward a year and the state legislature has done just that, to the applause of the U.S. and Canadian federal governments, lobstermen, groundfishermen, alewife fishermen, environmentalists, and the native people of the watershed, the Passamaquoddy. Only smallmouth bass fishing guides remain opposed, fearful that the fish will somehow destroy their livelihood.

I returned to the St. Croix recently to revisit the situation; the result is a feature in today's Maine Sunday Telegram, which I hope you'll find enjoyable and informative. It's also upbeat, as many sources think the tiny fish could help jump start a wider ecosystem recovery, not just in the St. Croix, but in the eastern Gulf of Maine and Bay of Fundy as well.

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