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Celebrating Efforts to Restore Endangered Atlantic Salmon

Researchers, academics, fisheries managers, non-governmental organizations, and members of the local salmon club came together to recognize the hard work that has gone into restoring the Penobscot River’s habitat for sea-run fish. The Penobscot River Restoration Project removed two dams and improved passage around two others. As a result, critically endangered Atlantic salmon, as well as river herring, shad, American eel, and other sea-run fish have improved access to hundreds of miles of their historic habitat.

On a bright June evening, John Bullard addresses a group of people who care passionately about the plight of Atlantic salmon gathered at the Veazie Salmon Club on the banks of the Penobscot River.  

“Rivers like the Penobscot are where we make fish. Sea-run fish are indicators of the health of our estuaries, our groundfish stocks, and our communities,” said John Bullard, Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region, who was there to present the awards.  “It’s amazing to hear about the signs of ecosystem recovery that we are seeing. While we haven’t seen strong returns of Atlantic salmon yet, the results of the restoration project for other sea-run fish are encouraging. To go from fewer than 3,000 river herring in 2013 to more than 1.2 million returns in 2016 is awe-inspiring.”  The evening’s festivities included recognition of the efforts of two individuals, Claude Westfall and Andy Goode, who have been instrumental in helping to restore this population of endangered fish.

While the early signs are encouraging, there is still much work to be done. With the partnership of Project SHARE, Downeast Salmon Federation, the Nature Conservancy, Atlantic Salmon Federation, USFWS, the State of Maine, the Penobscot Indian Nation, and NOAA Fisheries, work will continue on restoring access to sea-run fish habitat through connectivity projects and promoting awareness through campaigns like International Year of the SalmonSpecies in the Spotlight, and World Fish Migration Day.

2017 International Year of the Salmon Inspiration Award: Claude Westfall, Maine Atlantic Salmon Museum.

Westfall is well-known in salmon circles as the person who caught the last Presidential Salmon in 1992. A tradition that started with President Taft in 1912, the first salmon caught from the Penobscot River each year was given to the sitting president. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush received the last Presidential salmon. Westfall is a founding member of the Veazie Salmon Club, helped defeat the proposed reconstruction of the Bangor Dam and the construction of the Basin Mills Dam. He has also been a driving force behind the Maine Atlantic Salmon Museum.

“Claude’s dedication to the conservation, restoration, and recovery of Atlantic salmon and their habitats inspires us and future generations to continue the efforts needed to bring Atlantic salmon back to Maine’s river systems,” said Bullard, who presented the award.

 2017 Species in the Spotlight Award: Andy Goode, Atlantic Salmon Federation

Andy Goode has worked with the Atlantic Salmon Federation for the past 18 years and has been a tireless champion of these fish and their ecosystems. This award is a part of NOAA’s Species in the Spotlight campaign, which recognizes eight species, including Atlantic salmon, that are at the greatest risk of extinction around the country.

Goode has led the negotiations about dam removals throughout Maine and was instrumental in the success of the Penobscot River Restoration Project. Most recently, he successfully negotiated the removal of Coopers Mills Dam and improvements to the Head Tide Dam on the Sheepscot River, a process that took more than 20 years.

“What so many people were not able to do, Andy Goode, through his persistence and hard work, was able to,” said Bullard. “He worked with the community to come up with a solution that will result in the removal of the dam, while retaining some of the cultural elements of the structure to help memorialize the dam for the benefits of the community.”

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