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Migratory fish flood into Maine rivers after several years of restoration efforts

River herring, also known as alewives, swim in a stream on May 16, 2021, in Franklin, Maine. The fish were once headed for the endangered species list but have been making a comeback in some U.S. states.
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP
River herring, also known as alewives, swim in a stream on May 16, 2021, in Franklin, Maine. The fish were once headed for the endangered species list but have been making a comeback in some U.S. states.

River restoration projects along the Maine coast have allowed populations of migratory fish to rebound, and Sean Ledwin of the Maine Department of Marine Resources says fish runs are exploding this time of year.

Ledwin says the tally at the Penobscot River in Milford has already far surpassed last year's record run of 3 million alewives and blueback herring. And more than a million river herring have returned to the China Lakes, which fish can access for the first time in centuries following a river restoration project completed last year.

Ledwin says other recent dam removal projects are showing results, including one he visited recently in Washington County.

"We had just opened up a fish passage to Meddybemps Lake," he says," and there were seven eagles hanging out at that site, and hundreds of thousands of river herring pushing their way through an old dam site that we had removed."

Ledwin says a project to restore the St. Croix River is also gaining momentum, with the Milltown Dam removal scheduled to begin this summer.

Murray Carpenter is Maine Public’s climate reporter, covering climate change and other environmental news.