Connecticut River Coordinator's Office
Northeast Region
 
Photo of a volunteer stocking fry in the Sawmill River - Photo credit:  Draper White
Photo of a volunteer stocking fry in the Sawmill River. Credit: Draper White

The mission of the Atlantic Salmon Restoration Program is to protect, conserve, restore and enhance the Atlantic salmon population in the Connecticut River basin for public benefit, including recreational fishing. The following outline describes the goals, objectives, and strategies that have been developed to achieve this mission.

Goal 1. Manage Atlantic salmon production to produce sea-run Atlantic salmon returns.

Objective 1.A. Produce 15 million Atlantic salmon eggs annually from the Connecticut River strain of fish to fully support the Restoration and Management Program.

Issues/challenges:

  • Production capacity for 15 million green eggs needs to be established and maintained.

  • Very few effective vaccines and other beneficial drugs are approved for Atlantic salmon culture, increasing the risk of widespread disease.

  • Coordination among agencies, volunteers, and distant stations needs to be consistently maintained.
     

  • Strategy 1.A.1. Optimize use of sea-run broodstock for egg production.

  • Strategy 1.A.2. Optimize use of kelt broodstock for egg production to supplement sea-run broodstock eggs.

  • Strategy 1.A.3. Optimize use of domestic broodstock for egg production.

  • Strategy 1.A.4. Develop increased egg incubation capacity in cooperation with other agencies and/or private sector.

  • Strategy 1.A.5. Work with appropriate experts, officials, and organizations to identify alternative/improved forms of treatment to optimize survival of eggs and fish in hatcheries.

  • Strategy 1.A.6. Continue coordination among agencies and seek improved approaches to managing communication and volunteers to more effectively accomplish spawning and production tasks collectively.
     

Objective 1.B. Produce and stock 10 million fry annually.

Issues/challenges:

  • Existing capacity is insufficient to incubate the number of eggs needed to meet production goals.

  • Current limited incubation capacity has necessitated both incubation of eggs at higher than optimum densities and stream-plants of eggs in the tributaries, the effectiveness of which have not been thoroughly evaluated.

  • Fry stocking is labor intensive and requires partnerships among agencies and volunteers.

  • Detailed habitat surveys are lacking on some tributaries which limits fry stocking effectiveness and flexibility.
     

  • Strategy 1.B.1. Increase existing incubation capacity at state and federal fish culture facilities.

  • Strategy 1.B.2. Identify quantity and quality of all nursery habitat in the 38 tributaries targeted for restoration (Appendix B, Figure 1).

  • Strategy 1.B.3. Stock all appropriate habitat.

  • Strategy 1.B.4. Utilize a structured volunteer program to ensure the success of fry stocking.
     

Objective 1.C. Produce and stock a minimum of 100,000 hatchery smolts annually.

Issues/challenges:

  • Hatchery smolts are needed to provide a minimum of 100 returning adults or as many as needed to maintain a genetically viable Connecticut River stock in case of an unfavorable environmental event that greatly reduces wild smolt production.

  • Hatchery smolts are needed for research.

  • No smolts are currently produced or stocked because of a lack of funding and suitable facilities.

  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA) restrictions limit available disease treatments for smolts.
     

  • Strategy 1.C.1. Identify a suitable facility (facilities) for the production of smolts.

  • Strategy 1.C.2. Identify funding sources to enable production of smolts at designated facilities.

  • Strategy 1.C.3. Produce at least 100,000 smolts annually.

  • Strategy 1.C.4. Stock at least 100,000 smolts annually.

  • Strategy 1.C.5. Work with appropriate experts, officials, and organizations to identify alternative/improved forms of rearing regimes and treatment to optimize smolt survival in hatcheries.
     

Objective 1.D. Maintain and, when possible, enhance existing genetic variability in the Connecticut River Atlantic salmon population.

Issues/challenges:

  • The native Connecticut River Atlantic salmon stock is extinct.

  • Limited information exists about the origins of the existing Connecticut River stock and the subsequent contributions of introduced stocks.

  • Genetic research and monitoring is important but expensive, and limited funding is available for these activities.
     

  • Strategy 1.D.1. Monitor genetic variability of broodstock and progeny.

  • Strategy 1.D.2. Continue with spawning protocols designed to minimize loss of genetic variability.

  • Strategy 1.D.3. Assess need, potential, and advisability of importing donor stocks.

  • Strategy 1.D.4. Review, select, and support related genetic research and monitoring projects.

 

Goal 2. Enhance and maintain the quantity, quality and accessibility of salmon habitat necessary to support re-established spawning populations.

Objective 2.A. Protect, maintain and restore existing Atlantic salmon habitat in all 38 selected tributaries (Appendix B, Figure 1).

Issues/challenges:

  • Most of the historic salmon habitat in the basin has been destroyed, degraded, or rendered inaccessible.

  • Lack of public awareness of the importance of habitat to salmon restoration impedes habitat protection and restoration.

  • Local commissions control most of the land use decisions that could impair salmon habitat.
     

  • Strategy 2.A.1. Continue to utilize local, state, and federal regulatory authorities to protect riparian area buffer strips, instream flows, and salmon habitat.

  • Strategy 2.A.2. Support establishment of river flows that benefit salmon habitat at hydroelectric dams and flood control structures.

  • Strategy 2.A.3. Restore and improve habitat where feasible and practical.

  • Strategy 2.A.4. Work cooperatively with individuals and organizations within the watershed to protect, restore and maintain Atlantic salmon habitat.

  • Strategy 2.A.5. Provide information so that the public understands the importance of habitat and is motivated to protect salmon habitat.
     

Objective 2.B. Provide adult Atlantic salmon access to selected upstream spawning habitat in the Connecticut River and 13 identified tributaries (Appendix E, Goal 2).

Issues/challenges:

  • Dams have rendered most of the historic habitat inaccessible.
     

  • Strategy 2.B.1. Continue to oppose new dam construction and reconstruction of breached dams that will impact salmon habitat or migration.

  • Strategy 2.B.2. Support plans to breach or remove old dams that obstruct or impede upstream fish passage.

  • Strategy 2.B.3. Utilize state and federal regulatory authorities to ensure that fish passage is provided as needed at all licensed and permitted dams.

  • Strategy 2.B.4. Support manipulation of river flows at hydroelectric dams and flood control structures during key migration periods to improve fish passage success.

  • Strategy 2.B.5. Continue to share information and work cooperatively with dam owners, other river developers, and nongovernmental partners to resolve fish passage concerns.
     

Objective 2.C. Minimize passage obstructions, migratory delays and mortality of Atlantic salmon smolts and kelts downstream of areas stocked with fry, parr, smolts or adults.

Issues/challenges:

  • Dams cause mortality and delays in migration of emigrating Atlantic salmon smolts. Connecticut River flows are highly controlled, impacting Atlantic salmon passage success. The regulatory process to implement fish passage is slow.

  • Effective downstream passage is sometimes limited by existing technology.

  • Smolt entrainment at the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage Facility has not been resolved.
     

  • Strategy 2.C.1. Continue to oppose new dam construction or reconstruction of breached dams that will impact salmon habitat or migration.

  • Strategy 2.C.2. Support plans to breach or remove old dams that obstruct or impede downstream fish passage.

  • Strategy 2.C.3. Continue to utilize state and federal regulatory authorities to ensure that fish passage is provided at all licensed and permitted dams downstream of salmon stocking and spawning areas.

  • Strategy 2.C.4. Continue to provide dam owners with an annual schedule for operation of downstream fish passage facilities to ensure that facilities are operated at appropriate times.

  • Strategy 2.C.5. Support manipulation of river flows at hydroelectric dams and flood control structures during key migration periods to improve fish passage success.

  • Strategy 2.C.6. Remove natural debris obstructions that prevent fish passage on tributaries downstream of stocked habitat.

  • Strategy 2.C.7. Continue to work cooperatively with dam owners/operators to address passage needs.

  • Strategy 2.C.8. Encourage development and improvement of downstream fish passage technology.

 

Goal 3. Protect Connecticut River Atlantic salmon from exploitation.

Objective 3.A. Support scientific management of sea-run Atlantic salmon populations.

Issues/challenges:

  • Connecticut River Atlantic salmon are harvested and caught as by-catch in distant, coastal and in-river fisheries.
     

  • Strategy 3.A.1. Support and participate in the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization process to manage Atlantic salmon harvest and by-catch in the North Atlantic Ocean (> 12 miles offshore).

  • Strategy 3.A.2. Continue to support the State prohibition on near shore harvest of Atlantic salmon (<3 miles offshore).

  • Strategy 3.A.3. Support the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission - New England Fishery Management Council prohibition of salmon fishing in coastal waters (3-12 miles offshore).

  • Strategy 3.A.4. Minimize the by-catch of Atlantic salmon in all fisheries in the Connecticut River, particularly the commercial American shad fishery.

  • Strategy 3.A.5. Continue to prohibit commercial fisheries for Atlantic salmon in the Connecticut River.

 

Goal 4. Allocate adult Atlantic salmon to maximize benefits to the Program.

Objective 4.A. Allocate adult sea-run salmon to provide eggs for the Program.

Issues/challenges:

  • Sea-run salmon eggs are needed for the production program to allow stock development to benefit from natural selection in the ocean.

  • There are many needs for sea-run adult salmon but the numbers are limited.

  • A plan is needed to determine how many fish are released to spawn naturally and how many fish are retained as broodstock to support the stocking program.
     

  • Strategy 4.A.1. Allocate some of the returning fish for retention as broodstock (to provide eggs to the Program) and some for a spawning escapement using the following plan:

    Annual Run Size Release % Release # Retain % Retain #
    0 - 333 10 33 90 300
    334 - 450 25 63 75 387
    451 - 600 50 138 50 463
    601 - 1,600 75 888 25 713
    > 1,600 100 > 888 0 ~713
             
  • Strategy 4.A.2. Retain additional fish beyond what is called for in Strategy 4.A.1 to replace losses of fish that were captured earlier.
     
  • Strategy 4.A.3. Use an incremental release strategy to project total run size at the beginning of the run so that, at the end of the season, the intent of strategies 4.A.1 and 4.A.2 are met but not all of the additional fish are released at the end of the season.
     

Objective 4.B. Allocate adult sea-run salmon for spawning escapement into available habitat to allow for natural reproduction.

Issues/challenges:

  • Natural reproduction is desired as an element of restoration.

  • Release of all returning sea-run salmon may reduce the production of hatchery smolts and retard the progress of the Restoration Program.

  • A plan is needed to determine how many fish are released to spawn naturally and how many fish are retained as broodstock to support the stocking program.
     

  • Strategy 4.B.1. Follow the plan outlined in Strategy 4.A.1 to provide for a spawning escapement to the river.

  • Strategy 4.B.2. Release fish in addition to those targeted for escapement if benefits to the Restoration Program merit such action.
     

Objective 4.C. Allocate adult sea-run salmon for research purposes.

Issues/challenges:

  • Scientific research is needed to support the science-based Restoration Program.

  • There are limited numbers of Atlantic salmon in the basin, so if meaningful research is to be conducted, researchers need access to adequate numbers of these fish.

  • Research may occasionally preclude some fish from becoming broodstock.
     

  • Strategy 4.C.1. Allow research to be conducted on spawning escapement (Objective 4.B) when such research will benefit the Restoration Program.

  • Strategy 4.C.2. Consider releasing fish for research purposes in addition to those targeted for escapement in Objective 4.B when the benefit to the Restoration Program merits such action.
     

Objective 4.D. Allocate adult sea-run salmon to support recreational opportunities for the public.

Issues/challenges:

  • The establishment of a recreational fishery is part of the mission of the Program.

  • Recreational opportunities are an important public benefit of the Program. Premature activities (such as a recreational fishery) could retard the progress of the Restoration Program.
     

  • Strategy 4.D.1. Maximize the opportunities for the public to see wild salmon in the streams of the basin, particularly those allowed to continue upstream as part of spawning escapement (Objective 4.B).

  • Strategy 4.D.2. Provide opportunities, when possible, for the public to observe salmon retained as broodstock.

  • Strategy 4.D.3. Establish a catch-and-release recreational fishery for sea-run salmon when annual runs exceed 1,000 fish.

  • Strategy 4.D.4. Allow a recreational fishery harvest of sea-run salmon when annual runs exceed 4,000 fish.

  • Strategy 4.D.5. Consider tributary-specific fisheries at lower levels than stipulated in Objectives 4.D.3 and 4.D.4 when local situations merit such consideration.
     

Objective 4.E. Allocate post-spawned adult sea-run salmon to the kelt reconditioning program for the provision of eggs to the Program.

Issues/challenges:

  • There is a need for more eggs than can be expected from sea-run salmon in the foreseeable future, necessitating the use of kelt broodstock.

  • There is a need, for genetic reasons, to produce about half of the Program=s eggs from sea-run salmon.

  • There is a maximum number of eggs that can be produced and incubated.

  • The need to reduce the labor intensive activity of kelt reconditioning must be balanced with the need to maximize the release of sea-run salmon (consistent with Objective 4.A) while still producing genetically superior eggs, such as kelt eggs.
     

  • Strategy 4.E.1. Retain appropriate numbers of kelts from each year class of sea-run salmon so that at least 320 fish will be available to produce eggs, annually.
     

Objective 4.F. Allocate captive/domestic salmon for the provision of eggs to the Program.

Issues/challenges:

  • There is a need for more eggs than can be expected from sea-run salmon in the foreseeable future, necessitating the use of captive/domestic broodstock.

  • There is a need to produce about half of the Program's eggs from sea-run salmon, for genetic reasons.

  • There is a maximum number of eggs that can be produced and incubated. As the number of sea-run salmon returns and eggs increase, the number of eggs produced by captive/domestic broodstock can be decreased.
     

  • Strategy 4.F.1. Retain appropriate numbers of fry of pure sea-run origin at designated hatcheries each year so that up to 5,300 are available as adults to provide eggs for the Program.

  • Strategy 4.F.2. Develop a plan for reducing domestic egg production as sea-run and kelt egg production increases, consistent with Objective 4.A.
     

Objective 4.G. Permit additional uses of kelt and captive/domestic broodstock once the fish have fulfilled their original purpose.

Issues/challenges:

  • The use of kelt and captive/domestic broodstock creates problems and opportunities for the use of these fish after they have spawned.
     

  • Strategy 4.G.1. Provide fish to researchers to support priority research activities.

  • Strategy 4.G.2. Release kelts into rivers to allow their emigration to sea, reconditioning, and return as mature adults, consistent with all disease and federal drug guidelines.

  • Strategy 4.G.3. Consider the release of pre-spawned captive/domestic broodstock into streams to supplement the natural reproduction of sea-run fish.

  • Strategy 4.G.4. Release post-spawned captive/domestic broodstock to support a recreational fishery, consistent with all licensing requirements and policies of the Commission.

  • Strategy 4.G.5. Provide kelts and captive/domestic broodstock to programs or facilities to support public outreach and education relative to the Commission's Atlantic salmon restoration mission.

Goal 5. Assess the effectiveness of the Program by conducting monitoring, evaluation, and research and implement changes when appropriate.

Objective 5.A. Conduct monitoring, evaluation, and research to improve effectiveness of the Program.

Issues/challenges:

  • Routine population dynamics and other data are necessary to provide information to make management decisions.

  • The need for monitoring will grow and become more important as the Program expands.

  • Atlantic salmon habitat must be monitored to facilitate protection and restoration.
     

  • Strategy 5.A.1. Continue to monitor and characterize sea-run salmon returns.

  • Strategy 5.A.2. Continue to evaluate and monitor the effectiveness of upstream and downstream fish passage facilities.

  • Strategy 5.A.3. Continue to evaluate the effectiveness of the fry and hatchery smolt stocking programs and natural spawning.

  • Strategy 5.A.4. Determine annual smolt production from the Connecticut River basin.

  • Strategy 5.A.5. Support marine monitoring efforts by cooperators.
     

Objective 5.B. Identify information gaps, problems and management issues.

Issues/challenges:

  • Many of the cooperating agencies are not research agencies and are not funded for research.

  • Program information needs must be provided to researchers to ensure that appropriate research will be conducted.

  • Without adequate communication of research needs, researchers may focus on lower priority projects.
     

  • Strategy 5.B.1. Communicate information needs and research opportunities identified through Program assessments.

  • Strategy 5.B.2. Review research results and identify additional applied research opportunities.

  • Strategy 5.B.3. Develop a process to communicate priority needs to researchers.
     

Objective 5.C. Support priority research projects to address identified information gaps and research needs.

Issues/challenges:

  • Researchers need access to fish culture and passage facilities.

  • Researchers need Atlantic salmon in various life stages.

  • Commission endorsement would lend credibility to research project proposals.
     

  • Strategy 5.C.1. Ensure Atlantic salmon are provided in requested life stages.

  • Strategy 5.C.2. Provide researchers with access to fish culture and passage facilities within the basin and as appropriate.

  • Strategy 5.C.3. Continue to provide technical expertise on endorsed research projects.

  • Strategy 5.C.4. Develop an approach and process by which the Commission solicits and expends funds for research.

  • Strategy 5.C.5. Develop a standardized process for submitting, reviewing and choosing research projects for endorsement by the Commission.

  • Strategy 5.C.6. Incorporate research results into program management in a timely fashion.
     

Goal 6. Create and maintain a public that understands and supports salmon restoration efforts and participates whenever possible.

Objective 6.A. Learn more about the people who are affected by the Program.

Issues/challenges:

  • People have different expectations of the Restoration Program.

  • People who are affected by the Program need to be identified and their opinions need to be understood.

  • Current outreach activities may not be effective or may be sending the wrong messages because efforts are not coordinated or evaluated.

  • The public is not fully aware of the benefits of the Program.
     

  • Strategy 6.A.1. Conduct assessment of public opinion.

  • Strategy 6.A.2. Identify affected groups and individuals.

  • Strategy 6.A.3. Develop and communicate coordinated messages to address identified concerns.
     

Objective 6.B. Promote public interest and involvement in the Restoration Program.

Issues/challenges:

  • Accurate Program information needs to be provided to the public in a timely manner. Lack of outreach funding, focus, and clarity have hampered basin-wide success of outreach efforts.

  • Improved coordination and communication is needed to further interest and involve the public in the Program.

  • Expectations and perceptions of the Program are dependent upon public access and understanding of Program information and issues.

  • Public interest in volunteering needs to be coordinated with the Program's need for volunteer assistance.
     

  • Strategy 6.B.1. Promote public interest in the Restoration Program through information and education initiatives.

  • Strategy 6.B.2. Utilize volunteers where appropriate to accomplish Program objectives.

  • Strategy 6.B.3. Develop an outreach plan for improved communication.

  • Strategy 6.B.4. Integrate existing outreach efforts with similar efforts conducted by other Connecticut River-based conservation groups and agencies to accomplish shared objectives.
     

Objective 6.C. Include the public in the planning and the decision process to restore Atlantic salmon.

Issues/challenges:

  • People are more supportive and involved with programs in which they feel they have a voice in decisions.
     

  • Strategy 6.C.1. Continue to maintain active public members on the Commission.

  • Strategy 6.C.2. Continue to improve opportunities for public involvement in the Commission and in the development and implementation of the operations plan.

  • Strategy 6.C.3. Develop new opportunities for public involvement through partnerships and other effective means.
     

Goal 7. Improve administration and operations within the Program.

Objective 7.A. Enhance the Commission's ability to manage the Restoration Program.

Issues/challenges:

  • Coordination and cooperation within the Program needs to be strengthened. The Program depends on outside sources to fund and conduct monitoring, evaluation, and research.

  • Rapidly changing technologies and information must be dynamically incorporated into the Program.

  • There is no precedent or model available to guide a program of this magnitude. Agency cooperators, faced with increased responsibilities, diminished staffs, and decreased budgets, need additional help and funding to effectively accomplish Program objectives.
     

  • Strategy 7.A.1. Complete and routinely update Strategic and Operational Plans.

  • Strategy 7.A.2. Ensure funding and support exists for Program activities.

  • Strategy 7.A.3. Incorporate research results into Program management in a timely fashion.

  • Strategy 7.A.4. Continue to utilize Commission authorities and sub-committees to accomplish Program objectives.
     

Objective 7.B. Provide for centralized interagency coordination and information management.

Issues/challenges:

  • Interagency activities require coordination.

  • Coordination of activities requires more than the Program Coordinator and this must be included in agency budgets.

  • The public wants accountability from the Commission, member agencies and other cooperating entities.

  • The public does not recognize any single standard source for Program information.
     

  • Strategy 7.B.1. Continue funding and support for the Connecticut River Coordinator position and office staffing.

  • Strategy 7.B.2. Maintain centralized databases for Atlantic salmon restoration.

  • Strategy 7.B.3. Provide routine reporting and advocate Program needs to state and federal legislators.

  • Strategy 7.B.4. Continue facilitation of interagency cooperation.

  • Strategy 7.B.5. Centralize and coordinate public information dissemination for the Restoration Program.

  • Strategy 7.B.6. Increase communication between the Commission, member agencies, other governmental agencies, related groups, organizations and individuals.

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Last updated: September 14, 2010
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