Vol. 13, No. 4 – April 2008    News & Comment for and by the Fishermen of Maine          SUBSCRIBE NOW!!
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Alewife Habitat Vote Draws Crowd
by Laurie Schreiber

The Maine Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee on March 3 heard an outpouring of testimony both in support and against LD 1957, An Act To Restore Diadromous Fish in the St. Croix River, an emergency bill sponsored by the committee’s co-chairman, Senator Dennis Damon.

The emergency bill — written to take effect within a 90-day period, to allow for the spring migration of alewives in the St. Croix River — reverses a 1995 law that closed the river’s fishways and prevented the passage of alewives. If passed, the new law will open the fishways, located on two dams, by May 1.

Folks who depend on the thriving sportfishing and guiding industries around the St. Croix watershed opposed the bill, saying that the re-introduction of alewives would ruin the recreational fishery for smallmouth bass and would introduce disease to salmonids.

The bill’s proponents argued that alewives are a native species of the area that have been artificially blocked by dams. As a linchpin of the ecosystem, they said, the restoration of alewives could only benefit other wildlife species and, in turn, the local economy.

Former Department of Marine Resources deputy commissioner Lew Flagg worked extensively on diadromous fish restoration during his 40-year career, and worked on numerous fishway construction projects.

“At no time were there any complaints about alewife impacts on resident freshwater species,” Flagg said. “In fact, most inland sport fishermen felt that alewives were very beneficial to resident species.”


The Milltown Dam at Calais on the St. Croix River. Built in 1880, the original fish ladder entrance was under the building at right. The open fishway is Canadian operated. Passage of alewives was blocked at Woodland and Grand Falls dams in response to commercial sporting camp owners in 1995. Alewives are native to area ponds. A bill to re-open the Woodland dam passed unanimously on March 26. Chessie Crowe Gartmayer photo

Got Salt?
by Mike Crowe

Driving along an icy road behind a truck spreading salt may not have many thinking about salt as a valuable commodity. At least not valuable enough to be used like money, as it is today by Ethiopian nomads.

There may be comfort in knowing the salt is keeping those balding tires on the road, but who would at the same time think people have gone to prison for salt smuggling. Yet phrases and words such as “not worth his salt” , “red herring” and “salary” are remnants of and clues to salt’s once more prominent place in human life.

Salt, it’s always on the table at home and in restaurants, a handful of packets of it are thrown in with a bag of take out. As available as paper napkins, but cheaper, it may be the cheapest thing in the supermarket. Were it not for the talk of low salt diets it might not be given a thought, it’s just there, almost like water and air.
It has been a valued commodity for most of human history. Animals and humans need to maintain the salinity of their blood. Salt was critical to preserving food in a world, for the most part, without refrigeration. The New England salt cod offers a thread of a story that runs back through a lot of human history. The search for salt was a key component in the plans of the English, Dutch and French to exploit the seemingly endless wealth of fish in the American seas.


Women making fish on the beach at Banks, Newfoundland, probably about 100 years ago. The salt cod has been set on the stony beach to dry. In the background are round piles of salt fish. Generation after generation learned how to make fish using salt most likely brought in from Europe and the Caribbean. Newfoundland Salt Fisheries photo