Merrimack River salmon program’s run is done
An Atlantic Salmon at the Amoskeag Fishways learning and visitors nature center in Manchester is one of a number of native spiecies on view for visitors to get a close look at. The migratory fish was once abundant until dams along rivers such as the Merrimack blocked access to upriver streams for spawning. (UNION LEADER FILE)
Only 22 salmon were counted at a key spot in the Merrimack River this summer — the Essex Fish Dam in Lawrence, Mass. — compared to 400 two years earlier. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ended a similar program on the Connecticut River last summer.
“It’s the fish that attracts public attention. It’s at the top of the food chain. “It’s sort of like the (bald) eagle in the fish world,” Embley said.
“While the science is driving our decision, our declining budgets hastened it. We need to prioritize,” said Wendi Weber, the Service’s Northeast regional director, in prepared remarks.
He said recent stockings amounted to about 500,000 fry in the Pemigewasset and Souhegan rivers, small in comparison to the 2.5 million fry in the early 2000s.
Public Service of New Hampshire spokesman Martin Murray said the utility installed the $4 million ladder in 1989 at the urging of federal and state officials. While salmon benefited, the ladder was installed primarily for American shad and river herrings, Murray said.
Embley said the announcement upends a promise by a policy committee of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and federal officials to keep the Atlantic salmon program going until 2015.
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