No need to reinvent the wheel in salmon restoration efforts

Posted June 21, 2009, at 6:53 p.m.

Federal officials have listed the Atlantic salmon as an endangered species.

While the decision is not unexpected, it certainly brings about some lively comments and ideas about what should be done.

Many could serve to produce some positive results. First off is some type of accountability to those making the decisions and acknowledgment that past attempts at restoration have failed.

While there are many unknowns and variables involved in salmon restoration, there are also facts, studies, recovery and results that are positive. Use this type of approach, don’t dwell on what doesn’t work, and move forward. I’m not claiming to know all the answers, nobody can. However, successful work and progress is not going to be made with just more studies and analysis. It will come by taking action on the rivers, in the rivers and by the rivers. Don’t reinvent the wheel, repair it.

Common sense, logic, simple and local. These have been Maine’s traditional ways of approaching problems and achieving great success in the process. It also has proved successful in salmon restoration efforts in Canada, Ireland, Scotland, Norway and others.

One of the most obvious would be to locate our hatcheries on the river where the stocking is intended. A Wytopitlock parent wouldn’t raise children in the Maine woods, then send them off to the Bronx and expect them to survive. Same is true of a salmon fry-parr raised in a tank with treated lake water. Throw them into a river; their chances aren’t good. The changes to their element along with the predators make for a hard chance. Simulate the river, let them grow into parr and their chances are greatly improved.

I’m not discounting the work of our salmon hatcheries. They have served their purpose and done good work. We need to go beyond that, just as we need the help and support input of the salmon clubs. They have an enthusiastic membership with great expertise, knowledge and tradition that can be used. Don’t discount their role, their passion. Put it to use. They certainly have shown they know how to handle fish with the catch-and-release program last season. They might just bite at the chance to volunteer with a hatchery, providing help with little or no training. These are resources we have, resources we need, a way to succeed.

The Downeast Salmon Federation has accomplished a tremendous amount of work with a small staff. Our success and progress have come from their dedication, but it has been multiplied by our membership and volunteers. Fisherman, paddlers, environmentalists, farmers and foresters: the entire community has a stake. That is a common denominator in observing places with successful restoration.

This gives me hope that our rivers can experience good returns of salmon, the recovery of all our fisheries, as it is all connected. It won’t be done without accountability. Past results, efforts and money spent haven’t filled a net. Fishing and restoration have similarities. You can’t succeed without the effort. Change the fly and cast in a new direction.

Alan Kane is the president of the board of directors of the Downeast Salmon Federation.

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