In “The debate is still out on alewife runs” (Sunday, June 24), columnist V. Paul Reynolds notes amazement at seeing a healthy run of alewives at Webber Pond. Hundreds — perhaps thousands of people took time this spring to make their way to rivers and streams to witness the power and mystery of alewife migrations. There are myriad benefits to bringing back native alewives — a keystone species in freshwater and saltwater whose numbers are at record lows.
To date, I’ve seen no credible scientific evidence against restoration — and plenty in its favor. Historical records, including reports from Charles G. Atkins, Maine’s highly respected first Commissioner of Fisheries, tell us about the productivity of the St. Croix and leave no doubt about the historical presence of alewives there. The St. Croix River is slowly rebounding from its own human-inflicted ecological catastrophe when a fishway was arbitrarily closed by the Maine Legislature, reducing the number of alewives from 2.6 million in 1987 to a tragic 900 fish in 2002.
Thankfully it was reopened, and restoration work is underway. The river should produce millions of sea-run fish to feed eagles and osprey, and depleted groundfish stocks like cod, haddock and pollock. The run of alewives in the St. Croix this year was at a record high over previous seasons — 268,386 as of June 23. But still only a small fraction of what it should be.
Restoring the St. Croix alewife run will benefit the ecology and economy of fisheries throughout the Gulf of Maine.
Landis Hudson, Yarmouth