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Native Alewives in the St. Croix River


alewives

Update: Fall 2013

LD 72, An Act to Open the St. Croix River to River Herring, passed as an emergency measure and is now law. Read about the passage of the bill in the Portland Press Herald.

Background 

The St. Croix should be the biggest and best source of alewives in Maine

  • Alewives are critical to the health of Maine’s waters
  • Former Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Bucky Owen calls alewives the “most important fish species in Maine”
  • The St. Croix River should produce the largest run of alewives on the east coast, but Maine closed fishways at two dams on the river in 1995, which has resulted in a population decline from more than 2.6 million fish to less than a thousand within a few years.
  • In 2008, the Legislature opened the fishway at the lower dam, but alewives can still only access about 2% of their native spawning habitat.

Thriving alewife populations bring many benefits

  • Alewives are a critical food source for many valuable fish species including salmon, striped bass, bluefish, tuna, cod and haddock. Many mammals and birds also prey on alewives.
  • The St. Croix alewife run was rebuilt in the 1980s. It was seen as a great success in the restoration of a river previously marred by dams and pollution during the industrial revolution.
  • Restoring alewives is key to bringing back Maine’s once prosperous ground fishing industry. Maine scientists have linked the disappearance of coastal cod stocks to the dramatic decline in alewives compared to historic levels.
  • Alewives are the preferred spring bait for Maine’s lobster industry.