Atlantic Salmon release hopes to bolster population of endangered species

Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 5:16 PM EDT
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PATTEN, Maine (WABI) - Over the last few days, hundreds of salmon have been released into the wild.

The effort required multiple organizations to come together to try and make a positive impact in Maine’s ecosystem.

“Maine’s rivers support the last remaining populations of Atlantic salmon in the United States, but they are listed as endangered. We work together the Department of Marine Resources along with NOAA Fisheries, US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Penobscot Indian Nation to co-manage the species and try to help jump-start recovery and put the species on the path towards hopefully one day delisting entirely,” said Dr. Danielle Frechette, marine resource scientist.

They began with using nets to place some of the larger fish into the water.

For the smaller ones, they were sent out into the water through a hose.

“The fish that did go through the hose are the right size to fit right through there and slide out into the water. It’s kind of like a giant slip and slide for the fish,” Frechette said.

These salmon were born in a hatchery but are now going out into the wild to hopefully help the population grow.

“These are big salmon and we’re releasing them here into the East Branch Penobscot River so that they can go reproduce in the wild, and hopefully, help us produce more naturally reared salmon. Salmon that are reared in the river that grow up entirely in the river. That’s because we know that salmon that grow up in the river do better in the ocean. They survive better at sea and more of them come back to the rivers to spawn,” Frechette said.

Their new home wasn’t chosen at random but instead was carefully selected.

“The East Branch Penobscot River has some of the best habitat in the Penobscot River drainage. There’s good cold water to keep the fish happy during the warmer and warmer summers that we have. There’s really good spawning habitat and great habitat for the juveniles to grow up in and themselves grow up to that smolt stage,” Frechette said.

The day was several years in the making. And those involved hope to see it continue in the future.

“You know, I think all of us here I probably say that we all do what we do because we love it. We love the fish. We love being out here,” Frechette said. “We’ve been watching them grow and so getting to see them swim away into the wild is just I honestly don’t know if I can put it into words.”