Sea-run species benefit the economy for all

Posted:  Wednesday, February 28, 2018 - 7:30am

Residents of the Sheepscot River watershed are no strangers to the idea of passage for sea-run species through the Sheepscot River to their historic habitats. Most are aware of the time and effort many town residents have put into finding economically and environmentally sensible solutions to issues at the Head Tide, Coopers Mills, and Branch Pond dams. Passage of sea-run species is once again in the news with the effort to open the existing fish ladder at the outlet of Sheepscot Pond in Palermo. Comprising nearly 40 percent of the historic alewife habitat in the Sheepscot River above Head Tide, Sheepscot Pond represents incredible potential for the people of the entire watershed.

Restoring access to habitat for sea-run species is not simply a benefit to the proper ecological functions of a connected watershed, it is an economic benefit for the entire region. Young alewives hatching and growing in a lake or pond provide excellent food for freshwater game fish. Rather than harm a freshwater fishery, passage of sea-run species often improves it. Readers may have seen a Feb. 21 article in the Bangor Daily News where a man caught a 25.5-pound lake trout (togue) from Tunk Lake near Cherryfield. Tunk Lake has been open to sea-run species for years and supports a healthy alewife population. Nearby, Alamoosook Lake in Orland is the location of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife hatchery and is also open to sea-run species.

Locally, we only have to look over to Webber Pond in Vassalboro or Damariscotta Lake to see the wide array of benefits that sea-run species bring to a watershed. Damariscotta Mills obviously attracts significant attention during the spring alewife run and has become a destination for people from around the state and the region. This eco-based tourism benefits the entire region, and productive populations of alewives, no matter where, literally bring real dollars into Maine’s economy by attracting visitors and property investors. Improving the production of these species in the Sheepscot River can only serve to help our environments and economies in the town, region, and the state of Maine.