NotesFromTheCoast

Fall 2022

I’m excited to share with you the first edition of “Notes from the Coast,” where we’ll delve into a particular topic area, share thoughts and questions we’re exploring at Maine Coast Heritage Trust, and celebrate the impact we’re able to achieve thanks to your support.

We couldn’t do this work without you!

Kate Stookey
MCHT President and CEO

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THE GUIDING QUESTION

In our work, how do we define “the coast”? This is a question we have asked ourselves many times. There’s the literal shoreline, of course, and the coastal zone, but what about the rivers that feed into the ocean?

In a rapidly changing climate, we have learned that one of the best ways to accomplish our mission of protecting and caring for the Maine coast is to include the conservation of coastal river systems, which sometimes brings us many miles inland.

When coastal rivers are connected to the sea and provide passage for keystone fish species like alewife, numerous other kinds of wildlife benefit including commercial fish, which also helps the fisheries that depend upon them.

MCHT will always protect iconic islands and land along the coastline. Now through our Rivers Initiative we aim to protect and restore five key coastal Maine rivers. And we’re making progress in this effort!

Through a five-year collaboration with a wide range of partners, MCHT helped restore fish passage within the Bagaduce River watershed, bringing thousands more alewife fish back to streams, ponds, and lakes of the Blue Hill Peninsula—helping to revitalize the area and the entire Gulf of Maine.

How does this sound to you? What do you think about our Rivers Initiative and how we have decided to define “the coast”?

THE MOMENT OF INSPIRATION

“I see education as the most important part of this project now,” says Bailey Bowden, a partner in the effort to restore fish passage within the Bagaduce River watershed.

A CONSERVATION PARTNER I’D LIKE YOU TO MEET

B A I L E Y   B O W D E N
Chair of the Town of Penobscot Alewife Committee

Bailey Bowden grew up playing on the Bagaduce River and can’t remember a time when he didn’t know what an alewife was, or why it was important. “An alewife is always something’s lunch,” he says. When fishing for alewife became heavily regulated due to their reduced numbers, Bailey set out to fix the problem.

In 2015, he connected with MCHT’s Ciona Ulbrich and together they began an ambitious project to restore passage throughout the Bagaduce watershed.

His knowledge of place and deep roots in the community were key to the project’s success, and now he’s focusing efforts on connecting local kids to their environment. “The kids are teaching their parents about fish,” he says. “There’s a change in attitude, we’re evolving. This project helped inspire that change.”

DID YOU KNOW?

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For thousands of years, alewife, an anadromous fish that swim into freshwater streams and ponds annually to spawn before returning to sea, have fed us all—from people to bears to otters to eagles to lobsters.

More recently, dams and poorly constructed culverts have blocked passage, severely limiting alewife numbers and impacting food chains and ecosystems.

Below is some information about this important fish species we’re helping bring back to Maine waters.

An adult female produces about 100,000 eggs when she spawns.

Alewife usually return to the same pond in which they were born.

Adult alewife are preferred bait for the spring lobster and halibut fisheries.

Learn more about alewife in A Watershed Moment, the film about the Bagaduce River watershed restoration effort, at mcht.org/watershed.

Top photo courtesy of Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries
Photo of Kate: Katherine Emery
Photo of Bailey: Molly Haley