April 25, 2017 — If Maine’s once enormous population of alewives is ever to be restored, it will take the continuing efforts of a dedicated group of volunteers.
That was the message last week to more than a dozen people concerned with the health of the alewife runs in Surry, Penobscot and Orland from Brett Ciccotelli, a fisheries biologist with the Downeast Salmon Federation.
Ciccotelli spoke at a meeting at The Gatherings in Surry aimed at increasing the number of volunteer monitors who will count alewives as they return to Downeast streams in the coming week.
Ciccotelli talked about the importance of the alewife to the Maine ecosystem and briefly reviewed how Maine has managed the alewife resource in recent years.
He also explained how the Downeast Salmon Federation was collecting data with an eye to increasing the number of the small river herring that make a successful journey from the sea to their freshwater spawning grounds each spring and then return to the sea again in fall.
Anadromous alewives return from the ocean each spring to travel up Maine’s rivers and streams to lay their eggs in lakes and ponds. Schools of tiny young fish migrate out at summer’s end, to spend some time in the estuary and the ocean maturing, before returning three to four years later to the river they were born in to start the cycle again.
Alewives play an important role in the food web, serving as a forage species that feeds small mammals, birds and larger fish. The decline in the alewife population, Ciccotelli said, “probably contributes to the loss of groundfish” such as cod and haddock in the Gulf of Maine.