Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries Receives Three-year NOAA Grant

Grant to study groundfish in eastern Maine

[STONINGTON, ME, October 15, 2019] – Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries (MCCF) in Stonington has been awarded a $207,355 grant over three years by NOAA’s Office of Habitat Conservation for research testing the effects of restoring fish passage in the Penobscot River on groundfish diet. This grant will support the analysis of fish samples that have been collected during the annual Sentinel Survey that MCCF leads in partnership with fishermen, the University of Maine, and The Nature Conservancy.

MCCF started the Sentinel Survey in 2010 with partial funding from NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center, using longline and jigs to survey groundfish abundance from Penobscot Bay to Canada. Groundfish caught in the Survey have been sampled in each of the ten seasons to test hypotheses related to groundfish recovery resulting from restoring a river herring (alewife) prey base. The timeframe of this survey transcends the recent improvements of fish passage in the Penobscot River system, and it provides baseline data from which to study predator-prey dynamics as anadromous prey stocks rebuild. By improving knowledge of predator-prey responses to river restoration, this study addresses timely evaluation of how investment in restoring fish passage in the Penobscot and other eastern Maine rivers yields benefits to fish stocks.

NOAA’s Office of Habitat Conservation has invested more than $21 million in fish passage restoration in the Penobscot River system, which in conjunction with the removal of these dams, has opened approximately 1,000 miles of spawning habitat, representing one of the largest river restoration projects in US history. Restoration efforts, along with concurrent stocking have facilitated a rapid increase of river herring in the system. In 2018, 2.17 million returning fish were counted at the Milford Dam on the Penobscot River, and this year 1.9 million have returned so far. We expect this trend to continue as historical runs are estimated to have been between 14 and 20 million fish.

This grant will fund some of the analysis of the fish samples, specifically compound-specific stable isotope analysis (CSIA) to be conducted at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. These data will help to understand the diets of fish caught in the Sentinel Survey. Linking of this information with other analyses of growth rates, genetics, and reproductive status will help us to better understand the relationship that the restoration of river-run species might have on the groundfish complex.

This funding from NOAA will also help support the Sentinel Survey over the next three seasons. One of the most important aspects of this project is our collaboration with fishermen. Not only do we execute the Survey with commercial fishing vessels, but fishermen are also directly engaged in the study design, data collection and analysis. Deeper engagement has been a focus in 2019 and will continue into the future.

Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries connects fishermen, scientists, regulators and others through collaborative research and co-management to help secure the future of commercial fishing and the communities that depend on it. To learn more about MCCF or this project, please contact Paul Anderson, Executive Director at 207.367.2708 or


Paul Anderson, Executive Director
Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries│207.367.2708