Conserving the Nature of America

News Release

AGENCIES TO IMPROVE APPROACH TO ATLANTIC SALMON RECOVERY: Program review lauds current recovery activities, urges better integration

July 13, 2007


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Telephone: 703-358-2220

An independent review of Maine Atlantic salmon hatcheries commends cooperative federal and state efforts to integrate science and management but suggests more work is needed to save the endangered fish.

The review, conducted by a six-member scientific panel from the Sustainable Ecosystems Institute (SEI), was requested by the Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission in cooperation with NOAAs Fisheries Services and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to evaluate current hatchery protocols and practices.

While impressed by the cooperation of federal and state partners "who work consistently well together in a complex and difficult management issue," the panel concluded the agencies efforts need more support from and integration with scientific technical and recovery teams.

"Our joint efforts will be for nothing if we do not continue to build on our cooperative approach to managing Atlantic salmon," said George Lapointe, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources. "The integration of state and federal management priorities will ensure a more holistic approach to recovery."

In its report, the review panel stated that "alarmingly low numbers of Maine Atlantic salmon make hatcheries a reasonable and obvious choice as a key effort in preventing extinction," and specifically lauded operations at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Green Lake and Craig Brook national fish hatcheries. It added, however, that "hatcheries are simply one tool for halting extinction and recovering the species," and suggested a clear conceptual framework and a more strategic approach are needed for the salmons overall survival and recovery plan.

NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service Northeast Regional Administrator Patricia Kurkul noted, "My agency is working with the other partners on a clear framework for Atlantic salmon recovery and program evaluation as the panel has recommended. We are equally committed to modifying the governance structure for this effort if it can result in more transparency and accountability for agencies, as well as a better prospects for salmon recovery." Other report recommendations include:

  • Increased integration of key elements of the recovery program, such as monitoring, assessment, hatchery production schedules, and research.

  • Improved implementation of "adaptive management" --- a systematic process for continually improving management policies and practices by learning from successes and failures.
  • Annual independently reviewed scientific assessments to inform management decisions.
"I am encouraged by our ability and willingness to work together at the federal, state and local levels," said Marvin Moriarty, Northeast Regional Director for the Fish and Wildlife Service. "It is clear that restoring Atlantic salmon in the Northeast will take a sustained commitment over a number of years, and I believe we are up to the challenge of saving this extraordinary species."

Atlantic salmon in the Gulf of Maine were declared endangered in November 2000. The species once dominated Maines coastal rivers, migrating far inland in search of their natal waters. Now fewer than 2,000 fish return to an estimated 23 rivers.

Threats to the species include continued low marine survival rates for U.S. stocks of Atlantic salmon; excessive or unregulated water withdrawal; disease; and increased likelihood of predation because of low numbers of returning adults and increases in some predators.

The recovery plan for endangered Atlantic salmon in the Gulf of Maine was finalized in 2005. NOAA Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed the plan with the assistance of the Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission. Under the plan, major threats to naturally reproducing Atlantic salmon populations in Maine are being mitigated through a range of actions designed to stop and reverse downward population trends, beginning with better protection and restoration of freshwater and estuarine habitat. A variety of public, private, and governmental organizations are working together on these actions.

To view the entire SEI report in pdf format, visit