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Salmon Federation wins grant for stocking parr

We're grateful for the support of our broadly read local newspaper, the Quoddy Tides, which

has reported on DSF's award by the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service of a 5-year Challenge Grant.

Staff writer R.J. Heller

'On May 27 the Downeast Salmon Fed-eration (DSF) held an hour-long update on the Peter Gray Parr Project (PGPP) on the East Machias River. The Zoom session had over 50 people participate in the informative session led by DSF Executive Director Dwayne Shaw and Hatchery Manager Zach Sheller.

Included in the presentation were a historical snapshot of DSF’s 20-year-long project of returning Atlantic salmon to Maine rivers as well as current statistics and what the future holds for DSF.

The hatchery within the East Machias facility is named for the late Peter Gray, the legendary British fisheries biologist who developed a salmon rearing technique in the United Kingdom (UK) as manager of the Kielder Hatchery on the River Tyne for over 40 years. This technique was successful on the Tyne, which was devoid of the fish, but now is one of the top salmon rivers in all of the UK.

This technique was brought over to the U.S., specifically Maine, to replicate on the East Machias River. The hatchery is a smaller version of the one Gray had built in England. The first rearing of salmon in conditions that mimic their native river conditions took place in 2012 at DSF's EMARC (East Machia Aquatic Research Center - now named the Peter Gray Hatchery), and since then over 1.2 million parr have been raised and released.

Traditional salmon stocking methods call for fry – salmon just beginning to feed – to be released in the spring. The method DSF uses is a parr release in the fall. The fish are maintained in the hatchery over the first summer and released in the fall. The parr are larger and instead of competing with other species for food are focused on finding their place in the river to overwinter. The fish are better able to evade predators and at this point have

made it past their most vulnerable life stage.

How and where the data come from to support this success was explained by Zach Sheller. Measurements are taken using electrofishing, smolt counts and detection of redds. “Our findings have been quite exciting to say the least,” says Sheller. “Since 2012 all three areas have shown a continuing trend up in numbers, even though all results are impacted and

relative to the current environmental conditions and general health of the river.”

Using electrofishing, DSF technicians can determine the amount of parr in a river based on their number per river unit and compare that to records of an unfed fry stocking strategy. In this case DSF is seeing PGPP measuring 10.5 parr/unit versus 4.9 parr/unit. The number of smolts – young salmon after the parr stage – produced in the East Machias River has dramatically increased since 2013 from 584 smolts recorded to over 1,400 today. And

in 2019 DSF saw the highest number – 60 – of redds, which are river nests for salmon

eggs to incubate and a direct indicator of salmon returning home.'

“This is a game changer for bringing salmon back to just about any river salmon

once occupied,” says Shaw. “We have a proven and now validated recipe and

can place this salmon restoration program anywhere as long as we continue to have

the resources. This grant is a 1:1 matching grant, so we still have plenty of work

ahead of us – important and vital work – to raise the necessary funds in order to

keep this particular grant resource viable.”

For more coverage from the 'Most Easterly Published Newspaper in the US' see the Quoddy Tides website:

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