Conservation Group Asks for ESA Listing For Alewives and Blueback Herring

APPLETON — The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has filed a petition with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke to have East Coast river herring (alewives and blueback herring) listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

“The ESA listing petition from NRDC should not come as a surprise to anyone, especially the LePage administration and Maine’s Department of Marine Resources,” Earthjustice attorney Roger Flemin said in a statement. “In particular, on the St. Croix River the state is blocking alewives and river herring at the Grand Falls Dam from access to 98 percent of their spawning habitat in violation of federal law.”

The St. Croix, which forms a part of the boundary between Maine and the Canadian province of New Brunswick, once had one of the largest alewife runs in the world with over 20 million migrating fish returning annually, Fleming said. Today it is collapsed with only a few hundred fish reaching only the lowest part of the river.

“Through its action aimed at appeasing a few politically connected sport-fishing guides, the state is ignoring its own science showing that alewives have no detrimental impact to upstream non-native bass populations,” Fleming said.

Maine is now arguing in federal court that decisions it recently pursued all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in order to uphold the state’s ability to require upstream fish passage at dams under Maine’s water quality standards should now be ignored or overturned.

“It is another shocking example of the LePage administration’s hostile view of environment protection, and puts St. Croix alewives at risk of extinction,” Fleming said.

According to Fleming, this is a critical time for state and federal fisheries managers to take action to stem the decline of river herring, alewives and shad, and protect the nation’s ocean and coastal ecosystems.

“There must be a positive response to NRDC’s listing petition that includes reopening St. Croix River fish passage and actions that monitor and limit the catch of river herring in the open ocean before it is too late,” he said.

For more maritime news, pick up a copy of The Ellsworth American.

Fenceviewer Staff

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