(Bradley, ME) -- From 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM on Saturday, May 30th the public is invited to witness the annual alewife run in Blackman Stream at the Maine Forest and Logging Museum Fishway. After being virtually extirpated from the Penobscot watershed for the past 175 years, alewives have begun to rebound as dams have been removed and fishways have been constructed at several lake outlet dams. In just the past two years, the Blackman Stream alewife run has gone from zero to 170,000 adult fish.
As part of the celebrations in Bradley, there will be a Pancake Breakfast at the Bradley Fire Department from 7:30 am to 10:00 am at $5/person. Also, the Museum Store will have its Grand Opening from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm and will be open during the festival. The Museum Store will be featuring amazing local artists and crafters and will be selling festival t-shirts!
On hand for the event will be the Maine Department of Marine Resources, the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF), and museum staff and volunteers. Talks will include the history behind the design and construction of the fishway, the larger initiative to restore sea-run fish throughout the Penobscot, and everything about alewives. If the fish cooperate, kids will have the opportunity to see them up close and wriggling. There will also be face painting and fairy house building, so it certainly will be a family affair.
Melissa Doane, Town Manager, Bradley, Maine adds, "This event will be an excellent opportunity for participants to see two of the Town of Bradley's assets, Maine Forest and Logging Museum and Blackman Stream. The return of the alewife last year was an amazing experience and to have an event to celebrate the return of this migratory fish to Blackman Stream and Chemo Pond is remarkable."
In 2009, the Atlantic Salmon Federation worked with the Maine Forest and Logging Museum to build a rock and pool fishway to complement the historic character of the site. This fishway allows alewives access into 1,300 acres of prime spawning habitat in Chemo Pond. In 2013, ASF built a fishway above Chemo Pond at the outlet to Davis and Holbrook Ponds providing another 800 acres of spawning habitat. Another partner in the restoration effort, the Maine Department of Marine Resources has now stocked adult alewives into these ponds to re-establish what is quickly becoming a self-sustaining run. In 2013, approximately 10,000 alewives returned to Blackman Stream. In 2014, this number jumped to 170,000 adult fish and is expected to double again over the next several years before leveling off.
Alewives are the foundation of the food chain. Everything eats them from predator fish, to minks, raccoons, and otters to cod, tuna, and whales in the Gulf of Maine. They are an anadromous fish meaning they spend the majority of their life in the ocean, but they return as adults to freshwater lakes and ponds to spawn. After living at sea for four years, alewives enter Maine's rivers and streams in May. By mid-June, the alewives have spawned and then head back to the ocean. The eggs hatch after several weeks and the young spend the summer growing a couple of inches. With the late summer and fall rains, the young migrate down the river and to the ocean. To complete their life cycle, alewives must spend time in both the saltwater and freshwater. On May 30th, the alewives present in the fishway will be on their way upstream to spawn.
Earlier this month an alewife smokehouse was constructed by volunteers at Stantec Engineering and placed near the fishway. Stantec was the firm that designed the museum fishway. The smokehouse was constructed based on measurements taken from an 1800's smokehouse on the lower Kennebec. The smoke house will be in operation on the 30th so the public can sample these strongly flavored fish that once helped Maine communities survive harsh New England winters.
The work of the Atlantic Salmon Federation in Blackman Stream is part of their Maine Headwaters Project, which is focused on reconnecting key spawning tributaries in all of Maine's salmon watersheds. "The best chance we have to restore Atlantic salmon in Maine is to focus on restoring the full native assemblage of migratory fish with which they evolved and depend on for food and protection," said ASF's Andrew Goode. "From an ecological standpoint, alewives are the most important fish in Maine rivers."
The Atlantic Salmon Federation is dedicated to the conservation, protection and restoration of wild Atlantic salmon and the ecosystems on which their well-being and survival depend. ASF has a network of seven regional councils (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Maine and Western New England). The regional councils cover the freshwater range of the Atlantic salmon in Canada and the United States.