When the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced a proposal to include the Atlantic salmon in three large Maine rivers under federal Endangered Species Act protection, I expected Mainers would react to the news.
The targeted rivers — the Androscoggin, the Kennebec and the Penobscot — are among our state’s most fabled, and the salmon clubs of Greater Bangor are historically significant as well.
Seeing as how we’re reaching the end of a banner year of salmon returns — 2,093 as of Friday, according to Gayland Hachey’s mainelyreelseats.com — I thought folks would eagerly step forward to share their views on a possible ESA listing.
That’s not how it turned out.
Perhaps folks feel like there’s nothing to be gained by bucking the feds. Perhaps a vast majority of readers believe an ESA listing is appropriate. Or perhaps people are just tired of talking about Atlantic salmon.
Whatever the case, responses didn’t pour in.
For those who did take the time to share your opinions, thank you. Here’s some of what you had to say:
Reader Peter J. Lucas of Lincoln wrote to say he understands the confusion that exists when Atlantic salmon conservation is discussed. He also said he’s willing to put his faith in the scientists who continue to study the majestic fish.
“I have only fished for the mighty Atlantic on a too few occasions,” Lucas wrote. “As kids in Hampden in the late ’50’s we slid on the slime left on the shore of the Penobscot River at low tide. I was there in North Brewer to witness the return of the salmon, sometime in the late sixties I think.
“I believe in science, it has done so many awesome things for us in our lifetimes. We all probably know there is good science, bad science, good scientist and bad scientist,” he wrote. “It has been very hard to sort through all the data given toward the demise and partial return of the great Atlantic salmon.”
That difficulty, Lucas feels, has played a role in driving people away from conservation efforts.
“Most of us are confused, confused and more confused on much of the data we have been fed over the years,” Lucas wrote. “When that happens with any political issue such as this topic we become indifferent.
“Because of confusion and indifference many people interested in the out-of -door sports have given up. The old timers, the real outdoorsmen, are rapidly fading away. Kids today are brought up in an atmosphere of good science and bad science when it comes to conservation. Most of them do not get outdoors to learn the woods for themselves.”
Lucas offered his introductory comments as a preface to his stand on salmon and a potential ESA listing. Lucas is willing to take the strongest possible stand in order to help salmon recovery efforts work.
“All the dams on the salmon rivers must go, no fishways, no dams, period,” Lucas wrote. “Then wait, take the time to wait and see what will happen to the Atlantic salmon population, and this may take many years. A lifetime may pass, even two life-times, but I think it will take years to heal the misdeeds of the past. Industrial development and abuse along our rivers was and, in some cases, still is devastating them.
“In the meantime, no fishing allowed, none, and let’s do all we can to promote the same outside the confines of the U.S. Time and patience may prove to be our best ally,” Lucas wrote.
Reader Roger D’Errico of Hampden, an avid Atlantic salmon angler who has been a member of the Penobscot River salmon clubs for years, checked to share his opinion.
“I have a few questions in reference to the ESA listing,” D’Errico wrote. “What would you call a river that is and has been stocked many years with Atlantic salmon fry and smolt ? Maybe ‘ENDANGERED.’ Why has it taken so long for the [federal agencies] to propose a listing on the Penobscot River?
“After checking with Tom King (now retired manager of the Craig Brook National Fisheries Hatchery), he explained to me that a pure strain of Penobscot River Atlantic salmon doesn’t exist. So why do [the federal agencies] think that now is the time to list? Where [was the federal government], what ever agency was available in the 1950’s, when an oxygen block was so bad that Atlantic salmon could not get past Bucksport, Maine?” D’Errico wrote.
“Is all of this listing business just a question of politics? I wonder,” he concluded.
Reader Harvey Bowley didn’t specifically speak about possible ESA listing, but did express concern with the direction of conservation efforts. Bowley feels removing dams to allow the passage of Atlantic salmon and other fish is a double-edged sword.
“Hopefully the people will realize that the taking out of the dams and creating fishways will open up the Penobscot to the influx of the exotic species that have been illegally introduced,” Bowley wrote. “With the introduction of these exotic species the landlocked salmon and native brook trout will be a thing of the past. The pike will take over as the muskie did on the St. John.”
Bowley also said he thinks the struggle of Atlantic salmon recovery efforts is easy to explain, and has little to do with what happens in Maine’s rivers.
“The reduced numbers of Atlantic salmon can be traced to the Norwegian, Russian and Japan fishing fleets that still roam and rape the waters off of Greenland where the salmon spend their saltwater years,” Bowley wrote. “Water quality and quantity are not an issue.”
<h2<coming up …
On Thursday I spent some time with Kim Delbridge down in Bucksport, where he told me all about his nifty invention.
OK. He didn’t call it “nifty.”
Delbridge is the inventor of the Tree Talon, a device that can save us tree-stand hunters from our own clumsiness.
Picture a hand on a rope … or, more accurately, a plastic-and-metal, two-fingered hand on a rope.
Drop a hat? A glove? An arrow? Lower the Tree Talon, and it’ll grab your gear off the forest floor.
Delbridge told me why he invented the product, and talked about the response from national sporting goods vendors.
I’ll share his tale with you next week.
If you’re looking for an advance look at the Tree Talon, you can find it on ABC-7 or FOX-22 on Monday.
Dave Simpson, the camera guru at ABC-7, tagged along and we captured some footage that we’ll share on our weekly “Going Outdoors” segment.
You can watch those at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. on ABC-7 and at 10 p.m. on FOX-22.