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Atlantic Salmon Background

Historic New England Atlantic salmon rivers.  
Credit: Tara Trinko Lake, NOAA (click map to enlarge)


In 2000, the Gulf of Maine Distinct Population Segment (GOM DPS) of Atlantic salmon were listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  

In 2009, the GOM DPS of Atlantic salmon was expanded to include all watersheds between the Androscoggin, Kennebec, and Penobscot watersheds that were not part of the previous listing.

The Atlantic salmon is an anadromous fish that spends most of its adult life in the ocean. Once it reaches maturity, typically after two years at sea, it instinctively returns to the river where it was born to spawn (reproduce). Because Atlantic salmon do not die after spawning, the adults can repeat this cycle many times.  To complete its life cycle, the species must have access to spawning grounds and rearing habitats in rivers and streams in Maine.

Atlantic salmon in the GOM DPS are also challenged with a variety of additional factors such as poor marine survival, habitat degradation, low juvenile recruitment and increased predation. The cumulative impacts from all these threats are responsible for critically low numbers of adults returning to Maine rivers.