Alewife Co-Management

On the Bagaduce River, local fishermen and community members in the Bagaduce watershed have formed a multi-town committee taking steps to reclaim traditional alewife harvesting rights.  Alewives, also known as river herring, are diadromous, or sea run fish that spawn in fresh water lakes and live most of their life in the ocean. They are a critical prey species to spur the recovery of groundfish species like cod and haddock while also providing commercial lobster bait and food for human consumption.

We assisted local fishermen in Penobscot, Brooskville and Sedgwick to set up a multi-town alewife committee. It will coordinate work and raise the funds to remove dams, build fishways and gain a valuable spring fishery.

Our facilitation of their alewife co-management efforts is multi-faceted:

Community Engagement: Our work started when a fisherman activist asked for our help. We are supporting community members in all three watershed towns to work with state and federal agencies in doing the community science necessary to restore and become the stewards of the alewives in their own backyards.

Collaborative Science: We are coordinating the broad community science effort on each stream: sampling the run each year for the Maine Dept. of Marine Resources (DMR) as a prerequisite for being awarded harvesting rights. We are partnering with a scientist at University of Santa Cruz to collect plankton samples from Walkers Pond on the Bagaduce watershed as part of a study to determine whether food availability is the cause of “pygmy” alewives in the lake.

Ecosystem-based fisheries management: Linking watershed issues to the long term restoration of marine fish is fundamental to our effort to restore diversity to the ecosystem and economy of eastern Maine.  Alewives are called “the fish that feeds all.” They are important forage for birds and marine fish and, we expect, will contribute to restoration of nearshore populations of groundfish such as cod and haddock.

Partnerships: We maintain close ties to Maine Coast Heritage Trust, who is working on dam restoration on the watershed and Downeast Salmon Federation, which works on alewife restoration throughout the eastern Maine area.  The Downeast Fisheries Partnership supports, inspires, and connects all the river restoration work in the area.

Community fisheries activist, Bailey Bowden (R) and MCCF’s Mike Thalhauser (L) complete plankton tows.