A Fish Runs Through It: Restoring Fishways on the Presumpscot and St. Croix Rivers

Sean Mahoney | @SeanCLF

Slowly but surely fish are returning to the Presumpscot and St. Croix rivers and your support of CLF is making that happen. As detailed in this recent article, the years of litigation to force the South African Pulp and Paper company to allow fish like alewives and blue back herring to get beyond their first dam on the Presumpscot River is bearing fruit. Similarly, this recent report documents that, for the first time in two decades, alewives are able to access large swaths of the St. Croix River watershed – a result of CLF’s work to force the State of Maine to reopen a fishway it had blocked based on bad science and, literally, fish tales as noted here.

The return of these fish to their native habitats, achieved with partners such as the Friends of the Presumpscot River, the Passamaquoddy Tribe, and American Rivers, is good for recreational and commercial fishermen because alewives and herring are critical parts of the food chain, serving as food for bigger fish – such as cod, salmon, and striped bass – for mammals and birds of prey in the watershed, and as a bait fish for lobstermen. Moreover, for a river like the Presumpscot, which less than 50 years ago was still treated much like an open sewer, it is a stunning achievement and reflection of the power of laws like the Clean Water Act.

Of course, there remains much work to be done on the Presumpscot and the St. Croix, as well as on many other rivers in Maine. But the success of our work on these two waterways bodes well for the future of Maine’s rivers and the return of their historic fish runs. And that’s something worth celebrating!

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