2016-03-18 / Letters

Connecticut River story is painful lesson

To the editor:

From the Boston Globe (Aug. 4, 2012): “U.S. bid to return salmon to Connecticut River ends:” “The dream seemed tantalizingly within reach: restoring majestic Atlantic salmon to the Connecticut River, where dams had blocked the waterway so completely the overfished population became extinct. Now, almost 50 years and $25 million later, the federal government is giving up on restocking the river. Many of their most daunting foes – dams are now equipped with fish ladders and lifts, allowing the easiest passage in centuries for the salmon. But the fish confront a new nemesis: the changing ocean. So few Connecticut salmon today are surviving their arduous sea journey – a tenfold decline since the early 1990s – federal officials say they can no longer justify spending money to save them. This year, only 54 fish returned to the Connecticut River.

“No one knows exactly why, although theories abound, including the consequences of climate change.”

“We really thought this was going to work … but the quality of the ocean is changing,” said Mickey Novak, longtime hatchery manager at the Richard Cronin National Salmon station in Sunderland as he stood in a concrete holding poll with one of the silver fish writhing in his hands.

The Connecticut’s story is a painful lesson about the challenge of repairing nature – and an ominous indicator for Atlantic salmon in more northern locales. Maine salmon populations are nowhere near levels that would allow them to be self-sustaining without stocking despite decades of effort, and scientists worry that the fish – or the funding – may disappear before they figure out how to save them.

Scientists said they remain deeply perplexed about what is happening in the ocean but know it is affecting Atlantic salmon the world over. The possibilities are many: warming temperatures or acidification from climate changes, freshwater flowing into the sea from melting polar ice caps, or changes in food supply or predators. NOAA officials are also examining coastal estuaries to see where fish are being lost and why.

On July 10, the decision was made: The federal government would stop raising eggs and take the estimated $1 million to $2 million spent on the program each year and reallocate it to other seagoing fish, such as shad and river herring.”

As Mr. Mendelsohn pointed out in his letter to the Kennebunk Post, “the Gulf (of Maine) is reported to be in a state of crisis.”

After the 50-year failed experiment in salmon restoration by other scientists, local river groups would like to try their science experiments on the Mousam. Perhaps their efforts (and our dollars) would be better spent on the Gulf of Maine ecosystem, instead of destroying the hundreds of species now living in the river, in an effort to restore a few fish species, notably shad and river herring.

The river groups have been lobbying Kennebunk Light and Power for years, yet many of our citizens are unaware of the fateful, irreversible decision about to be forced on us. They tell us dam removal is the only affordable option, yet the original draft report by Wright Pierce had financial flaws in it.

Other, affordable proposals are possible. Contact KLP. You can go to the petition at change.org, search and type mousam over search petition. Or, e-mail savethemousam@gmail.com.

Ward Hansen

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