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Thursday, September 05, 2013

30-year old Atlantic salmon restoration program in the Merrimack River comes to an end

Atlantic salmon. credit: Greg Thompson/USFWSBased on continued low annual sea-run salmon returns and shrinking Federal budgets, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today announced it will end its investment in the more than 30-year old Atlantic salmon restoration program in the Merrimack River.

The Service has worked cooperatively with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service, and the U.S.Forest Service to raise and stock Atlantic salmon for the Merrimack River at two hatcheries: Nashua National Fish Hatchery in New Hampshire, and North Attleboro National Fish Hatchery in Massachusetts.
map of Merrimack River

“This was a hard decision, but the science tells us that there is little chance that we will successfully restore Atlantic salmon to the Merrimack,” said Wendi Weber, the Service’s Northeast Regional Director. “While the science is driving our decision, our declining budgets hastened it. We need to prioritize. With the lack of success, we need to shift our scarce resources to priority restoration efforts where we can make a difference. ”

At today’s Merrimack River Policy Committee meeting in Concord, N.H., the Service and the committee asked the Merrimack River Technical Committee to develop a plan that outlines program next steps, including stocking the last of the Merrimack salmon that are currently at the two hatcheries, and options for continued Atlantic salmon monitoring in river.

The Service has already begun to shift resources toward higher priority restoration efforts, such as American shad. Both Nashua and North Attleboro National Fish Hatcheries raise shad that are stocked in rivers from New Hampshire to Rhode Island.

Today’s announcement follows a decision in 2012 to end the Service’s investment in Atlantic salmon restoration in the Connecticut River. In both the Connecticut and Merrimack rivers, salmon returns have been limited due to poor marine survival, in-river habitat degradation, and dams that impede fish migration.
The Service continues to focus on recovery of endangered Atlantic salmon in Gulf of Maine rivers, which are the last remaining wild Atlantic salmon in the country.

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