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Environmental Advocates Say Thousands of Fish Are Dying On Union River In Ellsworth

Downeast Salmon Federation
Dead baby alewives are seen along Union River. The Downeast Salmon Federation is monitoring reports that thousands of baby alewives are being killed as they swim downstream through or over the Ellsworth dam.

Environmental advocates say that thousands of young alewives are dying in the Union River below the Ellsworth dam – maybe hundreds of thousands.

Brett Ciccotelli is a fisheries biologist with the Downeast Salmon Federation.

"It's not the first time, as people know in Ellsworth,” he said. “It's an ongoing tragedy there. But for the river and the ecology but also the fishery. I mean this is a Heritage fishery in Maine.”

A spokesperson for dam owner Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners says the company observed a large number of alewives heading downstream but also that “the ‘vast majority’ of the juveniles were passing safely.”

Environmental advocates suspect many are being injured by the dam's turbines. And they are calling for better fish protection as part of the dam's effort to win a new, 40-year federal license.

This story was originally published June 29, 2018 at 3:10 p.m. ET.

A Columbia University graduate, Fred began his journalism career as a print reporter in Vermont, then came to Maine Public in 2001 as its political reporter, as well as serving as a host for a variety of Maine Public Radio and Maine Public Television programs. Fred later went on to become news director for New England Public Radio in Western Massachusetts and worked as a freelancer for National Public Radio and a number of regional public radio stations, including WBUR in Boston and NHPR in New Hampshire.