Opening the St. Croix to alewives

Of the few good things the Maine legislature is able to do, this is definitely one of them:

The Legislature passed a bill Wednesday to end an 18-year blockade that has prevented alewives from running in most of the St. Croix River.

L.D. 72 passed the Senate by a vote of 33-0. The House voted 123-24 to enact the measure. The margins are sufficient to enact the emergency bill with Gov. Paul LePage’s signature.

If the governor does sign it, the bill will take effect immediately and allow spring runs of alewives through the fishway at the Grand Falls Dam near Princeton, in Washington County, and through much of the St. Croix watershed.

(The St. Croix is an important Maine river that serves as a border between the U.S. and Canada, winding through the edges of Downeast Maine, and emptying into the Atlantic.)

If you’ve wondered why the lobster industry in Maine (which, c’mon, is the only one that matters) has been reeling so much lately, one of the reasons has to do with alewives. This fish is a vital source of food for large predators, but it hasn’t been as easily available to them due to population declines and poor wildlife management decisions over the years. As a result, it is a strong possibility that there are fewer large predators in the Gulf of Maine, thus allowing a free-for-all explosion in the lobster population; the cockroaches of the sea aren’t being as vigorously hunted by non-humans as they once were. This ultimately drives prices down, hurting Maine fisherman. However, now that we can expect dramatic increases in alewife numbers, we should begin to see improvements in one of Maine’s key economic sectors.

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