This InfoSheet is number: 1025
Summary: Continuing discussion (#s 3, 4, & 5) of the "Alewives in the St. Croix" issue.
[Received by e-mail] March 1, 2001 By way of introduction, I have fished EGL 5 weeks each year since 1988, and almost exclusively for salmon. I believe that we have every reason to be very concerned about the spread of freshwater (landlocked) alewives in EGL. I have found more and more alewives in stomach content samples in each of the past 4 years. I have discussed related issues with a fisheries biologist in the area and in southern Maine. They acknowledge upfront that there are no studies available (meaning no scientific data support) to substantiate their opinions, but in each District I heard the following anecdotal concerns:
o These alewives are aggressive and efficient feeders.
o They seek out the same food source as smelts.
o Their feeding efficiency, capacity, and aggressiveness ultimately results in the demise of the smelt population.
o While large in size and brightly colored, salmon and toque readily forage on these fish.
o The nutritional value to a salmon/togue of a larger alewife is much less than a smaller smelt. (that surprised me).
o The quality of the salmon/togue diminishes as they take in these forage fish with less nutritional value.
When asked directly if he would ever support the introduction of landlocked freshwater alewives into salmon waters as forage fish, the southern Maine biologist was clear in his statement that he definitely would not do so. He also offered that once introduced, there was little that could be done to reverse the trends. With that said, I will tell you that the quality of the salmon that I netted in 2000 was excellent. While the quantity of the larger fish has declined, those landed were robust and fiesty.
These comments only pertain to the freshwater alewives; I have no opinion on whether or not sea run alewives have the same impact. Steve Wilson
[Received by e-mail] MARCH 2, 2001 BILL: LD 365 is one component of a complex and longstanding fisheries management issue. The public hearing on this bill has now been set for March 12, at 10am in Room 209 of the State Office Building in Augusta.
Last year our commission brought the various fisheries interests together to assemble what was known about alewives and bass in the St. Croix. This resulted in a 35-page compendium and a shorter 9-page distillation into a consensus view by the fisheries agencies. I've sent you the shorter document, which was shared with anglers, guides and others at a public meeting last May. This is a handy reference.
At the same meeting, the St. Croix Fisheries Steering Committee (which has members from all of the agencies) proposed a co-management plan for bass and alewives that offered their consensus approach to the issue. This management proposal has been formalized in a Memorandum of Understanding among all of the agencies, US and Canadian, that is now being circulated for signature. It takes effect if Maine resumes alewife passage at the two blocked fishways. This plan sets a limit on the number of alewives to be allowed past Grand Falls, requires bass and alewife research programs and creates a public advisory group to work with the agencies on management issues. CLICers should be aware that the management plan specifies that alewives shall continue to be blocked from entering Spednic Lake.
Our Commission does not take sides in the bass-alewife controversy. We think that it is possible for both species to be managed in balance under the plan that the agencies have developed. If the state does change its legislation blocking alewives, our Commission will work to make sure that ALL parts of that management plan are implemented, including precautions to protect bass stocks.
If the legislature decides not to change the law, the Woodland and Grand Falls fishways will remain blocked to alewives and the management plan will not take effect. However, Fisheries & Oceans Canada has advised Maine that it will then protect Canada's interest in the alewife resource by trucking alewives past the barriers and putting them back in the river upstream. Canada will then have sole control of the numbers of alewives, which is not a preferred international solution.
You should contact local guides, fishery biologists and other interested parties for their input on this subject. You also had an interest in the IJC's views and should contact the IJC's St. Croix Board for these.
I must stress that this is a difficult subject, with a long and not-proud history for the Chiputneticook Lakes. However if the state barriers are removed, the proposed management plan would be implemented and alewives would continue to be blocked from CLIC waters. Lee Sochasky, Director
St. Croix International Waterway Commission
Box 610, Calais, ME 04619
#5 Route 1 Dufferin, St. Stephen, NB E3L 2Y8
Tel: (506) 466-7550, Fax: (506) 466-7551
MAINE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
FROM: Representative George Bunker RepGeorge.Bunker@state.me.us
RE: LD 365 "An Act to Restore the Passage of Alewives on the St. Croix River"
As you are aware, our sports fisheries are at risk. We need to begin immediately an E-Mail and telephone campaign by contacting those legislators who will be hearing the above mentioned bill.
The bill will be heard jointly before the joint [House and Senate] Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the joint Standing Committee on Marine Resources. The public hearing date is Monday, March 12,, 2001 at 10:00 AM in Room 206 of the Cross State Office Building here in Augusta. A STRONG SHOWING AT THIS HEARING IS ESSENTIAL!
Please spread the word. I look forward to seeing you at the public hearing.
Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife:
Senator David L. Carpenter, Chair SenDavid.Carpenter@state.me.us
Senator Marge Kilkelly, 882-5410 Kilkelly@wiscasset.net
Senator Chandler Woodcock, 778-6220 SenChandler.Woodcock@state.me.us
Representative Matthew Dunlap, Chair 827-8989
Representative Dick Tracy, 397-5601 RepDick.Tracy@state.me.us
Representative Joe Clark, 723-5746 JEClark8@ime.net
**Representative Ron Usher, 854-8530 RepRon.Usher@state.me.us
Representative Bruce Bryant, 562-8224 House67@exploremaine.com
Representative Monica McGlocklin, 566-5740 Monica@tdstelme.net NOT ACCURATE
Representative Royce Perkins, 326-8609 RoycePerkins@coolmail.net
**Representative Howard Chick, 457-1141
Representative Ken Honey, 633-5560
Representative David Trahan, 832-4135 DPTrahan@midcoast.com
Joint Standing Committee on Marine Resources:
Senator Kenneth Lemont, Chair 439-3698 LemontSen35@aol.com
Senator Peggy Pendleton, 834-5414
Senator Beth Edmonds, 865-3869 Edmonds@gwi.net
Representative David Lemoine, Chair 934-4146 DGL@lemoinepa.com NOT ACCURATE
Representative Paul Volenik, 359-2106 Volenik@celestat.com NOT ACCURATE
*Representative Ron Usher, 854-8530 RepRon.Usher@state.me.us
Representative Tom Bull, 865-0190 TBull@javanet.com
Representative Nancy Sullivan, 282-5594 NPSullivan@cybertours.com
Representative Walter Ash, 338-3485 Goldie@acadia.net
*Representative William Pinkham, 667-6214
Representative Deborah McNeil, 596-6242 McNeil@midcoast.com
Representative Howard Chick, 457-1141
Representative Kevin Muse, 935-4725 KMuse@landmarknet.net
The Fish That Ate Down East Maine? (Part III)
The public hearing for Bill #LD365, “An Act to Restore the Passage of Alewives in the St. Croix River,” will take place this Monday, March 12 at 10:00 a.m. in room 206 of the Cross State Office Building in Augusta. Testimony for and against the bill will be heard by the Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife together with the Joint Standing Committee on Marine Resources, for a rough total of about 25 legislators on a good day of attendance.
Bill LD365 is already far more famous than was ever intended by the engines that set it in motion. This was supposed to be the bill that was quietly sluiced through the House and Senate and signed into law before anyone knew what happened. In communications between U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, it is stated in no uncertain terms that this legislation would be passed. Not a word about process, nothing about argument pro or con, just a done deal even before it hits the floor...
This, decidedly, would have been democracy with a small “d,” but alas, things did not go as planned. LD365 turned out to be the little bill that could... It has been front page news in the leading media, the subject of several prime time radio talk shows, and the source of perhaps more preliminary contact between legislators and constituents than most other bills on the docket. Small wonder. From the start, there was something about this bill that gave people pause. “Who wants alewives in the St. Croix River and why?” has been one of the most frequently asked questions in the public dialogue of the past three weeks, and a satisfactory answer has remained elusive. Most conspicuously lacking is some–any obvious good reason for the contemplated action. The pro-indigenous camp has been countered with the historical argument that there is no compelling evidence that alewives were native to the upper St. Croix. There is however substantial record from early European settlers and from contemporary native American populations that they existed below the tide. The pro-commercial fishery camp has been countered with the reminder that in the 1980’s when alewives were allowed to escape up river with the aid of fishways, and migratory runs increased, no substantial commercial trade followed. In fact, “there was little or no citizen interest in obtaining the requisite permit” to harvest the alewives (DIF&W report). The pro-alewives-as-lobster-bait camp itself knows that if spring lobstering in the St. Croix estuary or even Passamaquoddy Bay were a lucrative trade, then a case could be made for alewives as lobster bait. But no more than a trifling amount of spring lobstering is carried out in these waters. It is well known on both sides of this international boundary water, the damage resulting when alewives were helped upstream by fishways(1981-1985). And added to that, it is now public information that they carry an insidious blood disease (VEN) that is capable of infecting fresh water game fish. Still, as the controversy continues, the question persists–who wants alewives and why?
“It may not be about the alewives themselves,” one Maine legislator told me. “It may be about capitulation.” When international pressure is applied, politicians look for concessions they can make that are relatively benign. They may do this to get something they legitimately want in return, or they may do it to relieve an accumulation of antagonism from past mistakes. If you’re caught in the middle, it may be your misfortune.
In the case of LD365, the sporting economy of Washington County may be caught in the middle, and there is fear that in the political sphere, it has been deemed expendable. “Many of the region’s fishing lodges and guiding enterprises were founded on the fame of the bass fishery, “ says a report by James S. Fletcher and Alfred L. Meister called, The St. Croix River. They mention “that fishery’s importance and its monetary value to the area.” That report is 20 years old and that commerce has only increased. It now supports hundreds of Guides, sporting lodges and related interests.
“It should be stressed over and over again,” says Lance Wheaton, owner of Village Camps in Forrest City, “that this is not a commercial fishery. It is a sport fishery and there’s a big difference.” Crabs in the Chesapeake Bay, cod at George’s Bank, haddock in the Bay of Fundy....these are commercial fisheries, and they’ve all been decimated from over-harvesting. In sharp contrast to this type of fishery, the local waters targeted for the introduction of alewives have entered the “outstanding” category (MeDIF&W) as a result of good stewardship by the professionals who work them. These great gains, and the infrastructure they represent are now threatened by the advent of a diseased fish whose devastating potential is a matter of record.
Finally, there is an old scientific axiom that says the outcome of an experiment can be prejudiced by the nature of the experimental method. In public polls and surveys, it has long been known that the phrasing of the question can influence the answer received. Something akin to this dynamic is at work in bill LD365. The use of the word “restore” in the language of the bill (An Act to Restore the Passage of Alewives in the St. Croix River,) begs the question of “nativeness” and thus automatically amasses support. The assumption from this term is that alewives were there in the first place, so they should be put back. Now to a great many well-meaning naturalists, environmentalists and conservationists, that’s enough reason to buy into the concept. That alewives (gaspereau) were ever present in the upper St. Croix without human heroics remains a matter of substantial doubt. Spotty reports of their presence upstream usually followed some tampering with dams or blasting of spring log jams which reconfigured the river. Alewives are not anatomically equipped to negotiate a head of water like the one at Milltown Falls near Calais. And dynamite makes a poor case for “native” runs of alewives.
We might consider instead, an alternative meaning of the term, “restore.” Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language gives as the forth definition of “restore...To bring back to health, strength, etc.” Thanks to measures taken in the last ten years, this process is already in motion. Eagle and osprey populations along this watershed are burgeoning. The sport fishing in estuarial waters has improved, and freshwater fishing in tributarial waters above the tide is outstanding.
The restoration that is needed (bringing back to health and strength) is now underway, and to upset that progress and that ecosystem for no better reason than outside political pressure can serve no long term interests on either side of the St. Croix. Randy Spencer
In a message dated 3/13/01 6:50:28 AM, email@example.com writes: << Are you [Bill Walton] soliciting input on the alewife issue from various sources or just circulating what is sent to you? >>
I have solicited input from the SCIWC [only] !
I have solicited (by the fact of visiting the State of Maine Legislature's web site) the facts of the proposal to the State of Maine government.
Everything else that I have circulated has been sent to CLICbox4 unsolicited [from a variety of sources...I haven't counted].
I would like to know how the IJC sees the issue and their role in the developing conflict...that is their purpose, isn't it...to settle conflicts between the two countries?
I would like to know how the "canadian government" sees the issue (whoever "canadian government" might mean, specifically the agency (s) who want alewives in the middle St. Croix and it's "west branch lakes". I would like to know the TRUE reason for possibly jeopardizing the entire smallmouth fishery above Grand Falls...I don't believe that it's all an altruistic push to "restore" [sic] the area to it's primordial condition, say, the way some people think it was when Lief Ericson first visited North America nor can I believe that it's all a gamble to raise lobster bait and eagle food and stripped bass forage.)
Finally, because I would like to know these things, I think others would like to know them too...so I circulate the information that I am able to gather.
I've got no axe to grind but I do want to be able to continue to fish for smallies and salmon in East Grand...and in Spednic...and in Big Lake when I feel the urge bundle up my kit and return there for a day. I think I can see some evidence of the problem caused by alewives in East Grand now [the Maine IF&W apparently sees a problem too with the smelt fishery...I hear that they're considering closing it!] and I hear that the searun fish are a worse danger and almost kilt Spednic when they were allowed in several years ago.
Although I don't KNOW the effect of "restoring" alewives, I am concerned and I don't think that the risk should be taken unless and UNTIL we know the outcome, i.e., the effect this proposal will have on the ecology of the middle St. Croix...and the lives of the people in the area...even if Lief Ericson wouldn't approve.
Best regards, Bill Walton CLIC E-Newsletters
[Forwarded e-mail] It was a beautiful day to travel to Augusta. The room had been changed from #206 to #209 when it became evident that a crowd was coming. So often, the workings of government take place almost in private, and then occasionally, a firecracker comes through the pipeline and politicians are playing to an audience. Over 100 people filled the committee hearing room on the second floor of the state office building Monday morning. Reporters scurried about plugging in laptops, positioning their mini-recorders, interviewing some of the spokespersons supporting, and some opposing Bill LD365, "An Act To Restore Alewives to the St. Croix River."
The Joint Standing Committees on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Marine Resources heard the bill introduced by Representative Ken Honey (R-Boothbay), who specified that the fishways at Woodland Dam and the Grand Falls Flowage should be opened to alewives. He referred to 'dire consequences' that would result from a failure to do so. Following his brief remarks, the IF&W Committee Chair, Representative Mathew Dunlap (D-Old Town) opened the proceedings with the invitation to speak for all those in favor of LD365. George Lapointe, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources was the first of 11 advocates of the proposed legislation. Commissioner Lapointe's address, while brief, was hampered by mispronunciations of local place names implicated in the bill, and by difficulty answering questions from committee members following his speech. Most of those questions, about the 'decline of smallmouth bass at Spednic Lake as related to the introduction of alewives,' he referred to speakers who would follow him. Though unfamiliar with the targeted waters and the general locale of the proposal, Commissioner Lapointe characterized the bill as, 'the right thing to do.'
Also speaking among the bill's proponents were Pat Keliher of the Coastal Conservation Association, Dick Anderson, a founding member of the St. Croix Waterway Commission, Fred Hurley, Deputy Commissioner of the DIF&W, Betsy Hamm from the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Benjamin Neal of the Island Institute, and private citizens Gail Gould of Calais, and Bill Anderson of Trescott. Keliher consigned the Spednic disaster of the 1980's to coincidence, saying that water level draw-downs were the most likely culprit. In characterizing the red blood cell disease VEN known to be borne by alewives, Keliher called it 'inconsequential.' The case made by the champions of LD365 seemed fragile, holding up poorly against the questioning committee members, and weakened further by a lack of acquaintance with the region at issue and its unique challenges. When asked for supportive evidence for many of the points made, they allowed that they hoped they could supply the committees with these prior to a work session on the bill.
Larry Marshall from Halifax, Nova Scotia spoke for the bill on behalf of the St. Croix Fisheries Steering Committee and Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans. He alluded to the Steering Committee's Memorandum of Understanding which has leveled the threat to truck alewives around the dams if they are not opened. He spoke of Canada's capacity and willingness to do so. Chair, Mathew Dunlap turned his microphone on and put the question to Mr. Marshall, 'Do you mean to say that you intend to truck these fish in and stock these waters no matter how this legislature votes?' 'Yes,' was Marshall's reply. If a pin had dropped in room 209 at that moment, if would have been picked up by all the tape recorders.
All of District 4's representatives as well as District 4 Senator Kevin Shorey spoke in vehement opposition to LD365. Each made reference to vital concerns for the sport fishing economy of Washington County, Maine's poorest per capita county. Kurt Cressey, owner of the Pine Tree Store in Grand Lake Stream then distributed a Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazateer to all committee members and directed them page by page through maps of the affected waterways, should the bill pass. Now fully oriented to the areas involved, the committees heard from Norman 'Skip' Trask, legislative liaison for the Maine Professional Guide's Association. He alluded to the Spednic disaster and to examples of legislation that later blocked alewife passage into lakes in Oxford and Androscoggin Counties because of their destructive history. The former game warden spoke of first-hand knowledge of alewives during his career and warned against a stocking based on too little knowledge and potentially harmful outcomes. The panel took advantage of his experience by asking more questions of Trask than of any speaker up to that point.
For the opposing side, there were 20 speakers. Registered Maine Guides of Washington County took the podium one after another. Alva Harriman spoke on the imbalance of approximately 1000 acres of spawning habitat at stake on the Canadian side of the St. Croix, and about 18,000 acres on the American side. Louis Cataldo, a fourth generation Guide spoke on the rich history of the profession in the region and the progress made by Guides working with biologists to improve the fisheries. David Tobey was equipped with summaries and quotes from DIF&W reports from the Spednic years and on the department's prior view of alewives. He supplied the committees with DIF&W biological evidence that the Spednic problem had not been related to draw-downs. Lance Wheaton of Village Camps in Forrest City gave personal accounts of his involvement with biologists during the Spednic period.
Most of the pro LD365 argument had been set forth by heads of state groups and agencies far removed from the St. Croix River (Boothbay, Augusta, Trescott, Nova Scotia). Most of the opposition came from Guides who work the waters of the region targeted by the bill. They spoke effortlessly with a calm command of the data and the issues. It might be added that the gift of gab is in a Guide's pedigree. When they were finished, packets of documented evidence were supplied to the committees.
Private citizen Bob Upham gave vigourous testimony on the perils of disruption if alewives were allowed through blockages and into outstanding game fisheries. Dale Speed, a DIF&W Advisory Council member and former game warden, spoke persuasively against an alewife introduction. Bill (James) Seavey delivered a casual but powerful assualt on the bill from personal experience as an alewife fisherman on the Canadian side decades ago. Ken Sassi, owner of Weatherby's, The Fly Fishing Resort, alluded to the potential harm lurking in LD365 to the sporting economy of the area and to the lives of those who have built the fishery up to its present state of health. Robert Newell from the tribal council of the Passamaquoddy Nation, in an articulate address, presented the committees with the nation's disapproval of LD365 on several grounds, one of which was that many of the implicated waters are surrounded by tribal lands. He noted that the tribe has to date never been contacted regarding the proposed action.
Bill Randall of East Winthrop deserves, in this writer's view, special mention. Looking like a composite of John Quincy Adams and Ben Franklin, Randall is a self-styled, volunteer lobbyist on vital outdoor and sporting issues, seeing to it that the wheels of democracy are well-oiled and working like they're supposed to. A law library on two legs, carrying a governmental grease gun, he glad-hands with a smile and a kind word for everyone. But when Bill Randall approaches the podium, all chatter stops. At the end of the day, Bill looks at the political balance sheet to tally how the common man is doing in his part of America. Hidden agendas, stacked decks, and surreptitious deal-making are his specialty areas, and he unearths them like a Blue Tick on a bear trail. Bill Randall received the day's only applause and a 'come to order' from the chair, when he referred to the conspicuous absence of DIF&W among opposing speakers to LD365.
The Guides Association of Grand Lake Stream wishes to express its gratitude to this outdoor warrior fighting the good fight, no matter what the outcome of the hearing might be.
Bill #LD365 was to be put to a legislative work session at a time to be announced.
[Forwarded e-mail] This is a short summary of the March 12 public hearing on the Maine bill to restore alewife passage to the St. Croix River (LD 365):
The hearing was over three hours long, before the Joint Standing Committees on Inland Fisheries & Wildlife and Marine Resources and a packed meeting room. About 35 people spoke and an even larger number were spectators from various interest groups. Speaking for the bill were:
Dept. Marine Resources - with an amendment to include the terms of the [St. Croix Fisheries Steering Committee's Memorandum of Understanding] (MOU) for managing alewife and bass that all the agencies have agreed to;
Dept. Inland Fisheries & Wildlife - ditto;
Fisheries & Oceans Canada - ditto noting that if Maine decides not to support the MOU then Canada will truck alewives past the Maine barriers;
Natural Resources Council of Maine;
Coastal Conservation Association of Maine;
Maine Lobstermen's Association;
& some private citizens
Speaking against the bill were:
A significant number of guides;
Four Washington County legislators;
Maine Professional Guides Association;
Grand Lake Stream Guides Association;
Governor of Indian Township Tribal Government (by letter);
Sunrise County Bassers;
Princeton Rod & Gun Club;
Chiputneticook Lakes International Conservancy (by letter);
& some private citizens.
Speaking neither for or against were:
Georgia-Pacific Corp -- noting that it owns the dams and it would cooperate;
the St. Croix International Waterway Commission -- noting the Commmission's role, supporting the MOU and outlining how it would help implement this
ChipLakeNEWS Pages: List of InfoSheets - Maps - Home Page