Manomet’s Anne Hayden is coordinator of the Downeast Fisheries Partnership, a coalition of groups working with fishermen and fishing communities to restore the fisheries of Downeast Maine.
Populations of groundfish like cod, haddock and flounder collapsed over 20 years ago and the fishing industry there now relies mainly on lobster. Stunted by dams that block their paths upstream to breeding grounds, sea run prey species such as Atlantic salmon, herring and alewives have also declined.
To address these issues, Manomet, the Downeast Salmon Federation and Penobscot East Resource Center formed the Downeast Fisheries Partnership. The Partnership is coordinating the efforts of groups working on fisheries restoration in the region, using an approach that focuses on ecosystem-based management and empowers local communities to participate in the management of their resources.
Why did Manomet and partners launch the Downeast Fisheries Partnership?
Hayden: We recognized that eastern Maine is an ideal laboratory for testing new strategies for restoring fisheries and sustaining communities. Bringing back sea run fish, such as Atlantic salmon, alewives, smelt and shad, will provide opportunities for recreational fishing as well as forage for marine fish, including cod and haddock. Enabling local stewardship and fostering sustainable fishing practices will ensure that these stocks are here to stay. Rebuilding river and ocean fisheries is a tall order; we realize we’ll need to engage many organizations to achieve our goal of community-based, sustainable fisheries.
How is the partnership approaching the large and complex task of restoring the fisheries of Downeast Maine?
Hayden: We see the rivers, watersheds and coastal waters as one ecosystem, tightly connected to the region’s communities. Because sea run fish are the lifeblood of this ecosystem, removing barriers to their migration between the ocean and upstream spawning areas – such as dams and culverts – is a high priority. Creating opportunities for communities to participate in the management of their own natural resources, through both training and management reform, is equally important.
Climate change is altering aquatic ecosystems, and no one knows exactly how different species will be impacted in the coming decades. How do you approach management of this resource in the face of climate change?
Hayden: Recent research shows that aquatic ecosystems are not uniform but highly variable from one place to another and from one moment to the next. Understanding the impact of climate change requires observations at a very local scale – possible only when fishermen, on the water day in and day out, work with scientists. We have to design an approach to management that is sensitive to changes resulting from climate and other impacts and is nimble in its ability to respond. We have to be prepared to take care of our fisheries resources, whatever they might be.
What is on the horizon for the Downeast Fisheries Partnership?
Hayden: The holy grail for living within the means of our natural world is ecosystem-based management. We are excited to be developing an ecosystem-based management pilot project for eastern Maine. It will not be easy, but we have to find a way to move beyond species by species management and look more holistically at the interaction of all species, including humans!
Come to Maine and see what we’re up to. We’re having a fish fry on April 18 in Columbia Falls, and everyone is invited!
Anne Hayden joined Manomet in September 2012 as coordinator of the Downeast Fisheries Partnership. Previously, she was an independent consultant focusing on marine research, policy and management. Read more about Anne in her bio.