PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The owner of hydroelectric dams in Maine said Monday it will make changes to some of its operations in an attempt to save the last remaining wild Atlantic salmon in the United States.
The country’s last wild fish populations are found in a few Maine rivers. Salmon counters found fewer fish on one of these riversthe Penobscot last year than any year since 2016.
Brookfield Renewable US said Monday it began procedures to close dams on the lower Kennebec River to help salmon migrate. The company is a subsidiary of a large Canadian company that owns many dams in Maine.
A company spokesman, David Heidrich, said the closures would continue until the end of the salmon migration season. The company said it made a voluntary decision to close some operations after young salmon were detected in the Sandy River, a Kennebec tributary.
The company is also working with regulators, including the Maine Department of Resources, to help ensure safe salmon passage, Heidrich said.
“We are working closely with DMR and the National Marine Fisheries Service to limit any potential impact on smolts as they migrate downstream,” Heidrich said.
Atlantic salmon were once abundant in US rivers, but factors such as dams, overfishing and pollution are hurting populations, and they are now listed under the Endangered Species Act in the United States. Fish is familiar to seafood eaters because it is highly piscicultural.
Environmental groups have long pressured Brookfield Renewable to take action to help protect the few salmon still returning to Maine. Maine Natural Resources Council scientist Nick Bennett wrote to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in April to say that Brookfield should begin protections early this month when young salmon begin to migrate.
“It’s too little, too late,” Bennett said Monday in an interview with The Associated Press.