For Immediate Release, June 16, 2009
Contact: Mollie Matteson, Center for Biological Diversity, (802) 434-2388
Endangered Atlantic Salmon Earn Expanded Protection in Maine,
Receive 12,000 River Miles of Critical Habitat
RICHMOND, Vt.— Responding to lawsuits filed in 2007 and 2008 by the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups, the National Marine Fisheries Service has protected Atlantic salmon in three additional river systems in Maine under the Endangered Species Act, including the Penobscot, Kennebec, and Androscoggin rivers, and designated about 12,000 miles of rivers and estuaries, as well as 300 square miles of lakes, as critical habitat.
“Maine’s wild salmon deserve a fighting chance, and now they have it,” said Mollie Matteson, conservation advocate for the Center. “Dams, pollution, water withdrawals, and other threats must be curbed or stopped if Atlantic salmon are to have a future in Maine.”
Atlantic salmon populations have declined dramatically throughout most of their range along the eastern seaboard and in the rivers they return to for spawning. Dams, overfishing, degradation of river habitat, introduction of nonnative fish species, and water diversions have all taken a heavy toll.
Designation of critical habitat is a key component of protecting and recovering endangered species, and is required by law. In 2000, salmon in several smaller rivers in eastern Maine were listed as endangered, but the government failed to designate federally protected habitat. The Center and the Conservation Law Foundation filed suit in 2007. In May of 2008, the Center, along with Friends of Merrymeeting Bay and activist Douglas Watts, filed suit to expand salmon protection to include Maine’s most significant rivers. The Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a preliminary decision on both critical habitat and listing expansion in September of last year. This week’s action finalizes the initial proposal made last fall.
Conservationists are celebrating the new legal protections for the imperiled fish, but point to a significant shortcoming in the critical habitat designation. Only currently occupied habitat is protected at this time.
“The point of federal protection is to recover species,” states Matteson. “The salmon is in grave danger of extinction, in part, because of its severely and artificially limited range. It makes no logical sense to say we will only protect its present range. Its historic habitats must be protected, too, if recovery is ever to become reality.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 220,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.