The Downeast Fisheries Partnership is an unprecedented effort to restore one of the world’s great ecosystems by reconnecting the rivers of eastern Maine to its coastal waters.
Fishing in Downeast Maine has changed dramatically since populations of groundfish like cod, haddock and flounder collapsed twenty years ago.Fishing matters in Eastern Maine. But it’s a livelihood that has changed dramatically in recent decades.
Lobster fishing has prospered and sustains the coastal economy. But, fisheries for cod, haddock, flounder, Atlantic Salmon, and river herring have declined dramatically due to overharvesting and a long history of damming rivers and streams. Recent efforts by the partnership and others are bearing fruit.
Most exciting, cod are turning up for the first time in nearshore fish surveys. While it is too early to tell if such observations are the beginning of a trend or if they are related to the increasing abundance of river herring, a favored prey, they are a positive sign. These developments are the beginnings of broad-scale recovery. They inspire hope that fisheries considered lost can once again drive economic activity and community well-being.
Manomet coordinates the partnership, providing leadership, program development, grants management, and communications support.
Where fish passage has been restored, river herring runs have grown dramatically, inspiring plans for restoration on rivers and streams throughout the region. Scallop stocks have recovered and are managed cooperatively by fishermen and the Maine Department of Marine Resources. Harvests are sustainable and fetch a premium price. High value halibut are once again being landed in a small-scale fishery. These fisheries are beginning to broaden fishermen’s opportunities beyond lobster.