With $6,131 in funds from a Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund (MOHF) grant, the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) has developed an outreach campaign to increase public awareness and protection of the endangered sea-run Atlantic salmon.
The funds have allowed DMR, in collaboration with NOAA Fisheries and Maine Sea Grant, to produce educational brochures and tackle box stickers that will be distributed to recreational fishermen by Maine Marine Patrol Officers and other conservation law enforcement agencies in the state.
“Maine’s rivers, streams, and lakes are home to two types of native Atlantic salmon; sea-run Atlantic salmon, commonly referred to as Atlantic salmon, and landlocked Atlantic salmon, more commonly known as landlocked salmon,” said Department of Marine Resources Scientist and project lead Danielle Frechette, Ph.D.
“They are the same species, look the same, and both spend time in our rivers, streams, and lakes. However, because Atlantic salmon are listed as endangered by the federal government, it is illegal to harvest them,” said Frechette.
To minimize the likelihood that anglers targeting landlocked salmon will accidentally take a federally protected Atlantic salmon, Maine Marine Patrol Officers and Maine Game Wardens will distribute the brochures and tackle box stickers during routine patrols.
The brochure includes information about how to identify Atlantic salmon, when they are in our rivers and lakes, how to practice safe catch and release of Atlantic salmon, and contact information for Maine Marine Patrol and the Maine Warden Service.
The brochure was developed and designed with the help of Maine Sea Grant staff including Communications Manager Hannah Robbins, Ecosystem Project Coordinator Justin Stevens, and Science Publications Designer Kathy Tenga-Gonzalez.
The tackle box sticker, featuring the artwork of renowned fish illustrator Joseph Tomelleri, also provides the DMR web address where the public can learn more about Atlantic salmon and what DMR is doing to aid recovery of this iconic species.
The MOHF also awarded funds to DMR to purchase two handheld scanners that Maine Marine Patrol Officers will use to check fish caught by recreational fishermen for PIT (passive integrated transponders) tags. PIT tags function like the microchips used to identify household pets.
“As part of our routine assessment for sea-run Atlantic salmon, DMR tags some fish with uniquely coded PIT tags,” said Frechette. “Scientists are then able to identify and track the tagged Atlantic salmon if they are re-captured during monitoring work.”
“If a Marine Patrol Officer encounters a fisherman who is unsure whether the fish they have landed is an Atlantic salmon or a landlocked salmon, the Marine Patrol Officer can scan the fish. If a tag is detected, it can be confirmed as an endangered salmon and released unharmed,” said Frechette.
“Maine DMR is working hard to restore endangered Atlantic salmon, and this public education program is a key step in our overall effort,” said Frechette.