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Agencies seek public input in advancing recovery of the Gulf of Maine population of Atlantic salmon

Jennifer  Goebel (NOAA)
(978) 281-9175
(978) 290-0203 (Cell)
Jennifer  Lapis
(413) 253-8303
March 30, 2016

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries have released a draft recovery plan for endangered Atlantic salmon within the Gulf of Maine region. The agencies, which co-manage the species, are accepting comments on the plan through May 31, 2016.

The draft recovery plan, the primary tool for guiding the process for species recovery, outlines specific approaches to reduce threats to the species, identifies specific timetables for action, and estimates costs to achieve recovery goals.

Atlantic salmon grow to maturity in marine waters and return to freshwater rivers and streams to spawn. The Gulf of Maine population has been declining since the 1800s, when, before it was dammed, an estimated 100,000 adult salmon returned to the Penobscot River alone. Since 1967, abundance estimates have rarely exceeded 5,000. In 2015, 731 fish returned to spawn in Maine rivers. Today, natural spawning of returning fish is supplemented by a conservation hatchery program designed to preserve the genetic diversity of the Gulf of Maine population.

"Restoring the endangered Atlantic salmon to their native waters is about conserving more than just this species. Our collaborative efforts to recover salmon will protect Maine's natural resources and support the state's economy," said Wendi Weber, northeast regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Gulf of Maine distinct population segment (DPS) of Atlantic salmon originally was listed as endangered in December 2000, and a recovery plan was issued in 2005 for seven distinct river systems. In 2009, the listing was revised to expand the geographic range and include large river systems. The current range includes all populations from the Androscoggin River in Southwestern Maine to the Dennys River in Eastern Maine. The broader geography of the DPS and additional science collected since 2005 are reflected in recommendations made in the draft recovery plan.

"NOAA Fisheries has designated Atlantic salmon as one of our ‘Species in the Spotlight,’ because this critically endangered species is at risk of extinction in the near future. The last remaining wild populations of Atlantic salmon in U.S. waters exist in extremely low numbers in just a few rivers and streams in central and eastern Maine,” says John Bullard, regional administrator, Greater Atlantic Region Fisheries Office. “We need urgent action, and this plan helps to guide the way toward recovery."

The recovery plan, when final, will provide a vision for Atlantic salmon recovery that includes long-term objectives and criteria, research and management actions, and time and cost estimates  to recover and conserve the species in its native habitats. The draft plan incorporates new scientific information and lays out a set of actions to: 

  • restore habitat connectivity between ocean and freshwater habitats;
  • maintain genetic diversity of Atlantic salmon over time;
  • continue to explore a range of strategies for restoring a wild salmon population in each of the three salmon habitat recovery units;
  • maintain and restore a wide distribution of naturally spawned fish across the DPS;
  • increase adult spawning fish through augmentation of natural spawning via the hatchery programs;
  • restore and conserve freshwater habitats;
  • increase survival in both marine and estuary habitats; and
  • engage and collaborate with partners on communication and education about the program.

Two public informational meetings about the details of the draft recovery plan are scheduled for Tuesday, April 19, 2016, 6:30 to 8:30 pm at Jeff’s Catering, 15 Littlefield Road, Brewer, Maine and Wednesday, April 20, 2016, 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm, at Best Western Plus, 375 Main Street - Exit 130, Waterville, Maine.

Comments on the draft plan can be submitted by mailing or hand-delivering written comments to Peter Lamothe, Maine Fisheries Program, Complex Manager, 306 Hatchery Road, East Orland, Maine 0443 or emailing comments to

The document is available online on the US Fish and Wildlife website and on the NOAA Fisheries website,

Get more information on Atlantic salmon.

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