ADVERTISEMENT

Last hurdle cleared from river herrings’ route to China Lake

November 1, 2021 GMT

CHINA LAKE, Maine (AP) — A sixth and final man-made obstacle has been removed from a central Maine waterway, clearing the way for a type of small fish to return to spring breeding grounds that were blocked for decades by dams.

Alewives are a type of river herring that’s been the subject of conservation efforts for years. They can now swim freely from the ocean up the Sebasticook River to China Lake, thanks to a conservation group called Maine Rivers, which completed a fishway at the lake’s outlet dam, The Portland Press Herald reported.

The fishway gives Alewives an aquatic path around the dam below China Lake, capping a decade of efforts by Maine Rivers in partnership with local communities.

River herring are critically important to coastal ecosystems because they serve as food for birds and larger fish. Regulators have described the fishes’ population as nearing historic lows because of dams, pollution, warming waters and other factors. Alewives typically migrate upriver from mid-May to mid-June.

ADVERTISEMENT

Although removing a dam is cheaper and better for the environment overall, considerations for the local economy had to be made, members of Maine Rivers explained.

A dam at Box Mill had been woven into business owned by Raymond Breton and used for biking, weddings and sports training. Rather than bury the fishway under a metal grille, the channel is exposed so people can watch the fish migrate.

“We had to get on (Ray’s) wavelength, figure out how we could build something here that would fit in, that (Ray) would like, and that would be something great for the community,” said Landis Hudson, executive director of Maine Rivers.