I received the following email from The Natural Resources Council of Maine (I am a member). I have been following the controversy over opening the St. Croix River to alewife runs by making entries in my Scoop.it : Wabanaki News and Issues for Maine. This issue is of importance to the Passamaquoddy in addition to the NRCM and other environmental organizations. It appears that the EPA has ordered the state to open the runs, but Gov. LePage is in opposition to this order (read the Press Herald article). Clarifying the governor’s argument should be part of the research process. Read the Passamaquoddy website statement and a Kennebec Journal report. A search for alewives St Croix will yield multiple resources – go back two or more years to get the full picture. Also found will be primary resource materials (the texts of research reports).
Students following this hearing and the two bills noted in the below email should think of who is sponsoring the bills and who will benefit from each. Students might also research the importance of alewives and other fish (including elvers) to the Passamaquoddy.
We need your help to restore the St. Croix River alewife run. Millions of alewives once returned to spawn in the St. Croix each spring, but now alewives are blocked from most of the river, so only about 20,000 of them make it back. Alewives are a native Maine fish essential to the Gulf of Maine ground fisheries and the lobster industry. They are also a keystone species and play a critical role at the base of the food chain. They are essential for healthy freshwater and marine ecosystems.
Please come to a hearing at the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee on Monday, March 25 at 9:00 a.m. in Room 206 of the Cross Office Building. The St. Croix alewives need you to testify in support of LD 72, An Act to Open the St. Croix River to River Herring, and againstLD 584, An Act to Provide for Passage of River Herring on the St. Croix River in Accordance with an Adaptive Management Plan. LD 584 has a misleading title. It is simply a bill to severely limit the number of alewives in the St. Croix.
The St. Croix has the potential to support as many alewives as the Penobscot and Kennebec rivers combined. But right now, St. Croix alewives can only reach about two percent of their ancestral spawning grounds.
This is because the Maine Legislature blocked the fishways at dams on the river in 1995 under pressure from a group of smallmouth bass guides in the Grand Lake Stream area. In the late 1980s, the guides mistakenly blamed the decline of smallmouth bass in Spednic Lake (in the upper reaches of the St. Croix) on the alewife run, which was starting to thrive again after extensive state and federal efforts. The real culprits in the decline of the smallmouth bass, however, were drought and heavy drawdowns of Spednic Lake for hydropower. This exposed the areas of the lake near the shore where bass lay their eggs to the sun, killing their eggs.
Alewives are a native fish that help Maine in so many ways:
• They provide food for groundfish such as cod, halibut, and pollack. Maine needs as many alewives as possible to restore our dwindling groundfish populations.
• Seals, whales, porpoises, eagles, osprey, mink, and otter all rely on alewives for food.
• Since the Legislature blocked alewives in the St. Croix, osprey and eagle populations there have crashed. At the same time, alewives have been restored to the Kennebec and Sebasticook rivers, so osprey and eagle populations are soaring there.
• Alewives are a crucial source of bait for Maine’s lobster industry, and the Maine Lobstermen’s Association is a strong supporter of restoring the St. Croix alewife run.
• Alewife rivers, such as the Sebasticook and the Kennebec, provide spectacular smallmouth bass fishing as well, because smallmouth bass love to eat alewives!
Maine needs a thriving alewife population in the St. Croix, and the Maine Legislature should overturn the 1995 law blocking alewives there once and for all. Maine’s wildlife and groundfish populations will see huge benefits, and so will Maine people.
Added bonus: restoring St. Croix alewives is free! The fishways are all in place at the dams on the river. Maine just needs to stop blocking them!
Please come to the hearing in front of the Marine Resources Committee and testify in support of LD 72 and against LD 584. Tell the Legislature to overturn the ill-conceived 1995 law. It is a self-inflicted wound on our state, and the time has come to heal.