Downeast Salmon Federation Announces Effort to Restore Wild Salmon

Downeast Salmon Federation (DSF) announced the formal launch of a $2.2 million fundraising effort to restore wild Atlantic salmon to Maine’s Downeast rivers. The launch will be celebrated at a community-wide event to be held August 3rd at DSF’s newly expanded Peter Gray Hatchery beginning at 4pm on Willow Street in East Machias.

“The public support for our efforts to date has been tremendous. The young salmon we raise--called parr--are well conditioned to river life and offer the last best chance to keep wild Atlantic salmon from going extinct in Downeast Maine,” indicated Dwayne Shaw, Executive Director of DSF.

Fundraising efforts to date for the Peter Gray Parr Project have resulted in over $525,000 being donated and pledged by businesses, foundations, residents, visitors, and the over seven hundred members of DSF. These funds were primarily used for the hatchery expansion which now has the space to raise 400,000 parr per year for release into the East Machias River. The young salmon stay in the river for 1-3 years before swimming to the ocean to feed, mature, and return as adults.

“What we now need is continued financial support from everyone to raise these young salmon and release them in the East Machias and welcome them back to their home river where only a precious few now exist and many more definitely belong,” noted George Leinbaugh, President of the DSF Board of Directors.

Biological assessments of the project to date are very encouraging with significantly increased numbers of parr surviving in the river and many more going to sea as smolts--young salmon that turn silvery as they adapt for their adult lives in the ocean. The Peter Gray Parr Project is to run for six years, after which it is anticipated that adult salmon will begin returning to the East Machias. The hatchery has been dedicated to the memory of the late Peter Gray, a British hatchery manager who first developed the special technique of raising salmon parr as “little athletes.” His efforts transformed the River Tyne from one hosting a remnant population of wild Atlantic salmon to one supporting a rod catch of an average of 4,500 Atlantic salmon per year today. DSF is following his methodology and would like to replicate his success.

The August 3rd celebration will begin with an optional tour of the Peter Gray Hatchery at 2pm, with the main proceedings taking place from 4pm to 6pm. Light refreshments will be available at the event.

President and CEO of Machias Savings Bank, Larry Barker, had this to say about the bank’s contribution and five year pledge to the project: “When you pair preservation efforts with education you create a win-win situation. DSF’s Parr Project is doing just that! They are fueling the thirst for knowledge and inspiring future scientists by opening their doors to area schools. This first-hand education brings focus on preserving natural resources and engages young people in ways that will give them a deeper understanding of our Maine way of life. Partnering with an organization that extends their project impact into our community aligns with the focus of Machias Savings Bank. Any chance we have to involve our youth betters our community today, tomorrow, and in the future.”

Dwayne Shaw puts DSF’s fundraising effort this way: “There are 12,000,000 fresh and saltwater anglers in New England alone. It costs about a buck a parr, all in, to raise, cultivate, and stock one fish. That’s less than a cup of coffee, particularly if you want to help restore a species or at least get them off the endangered species list. It is impossible to say that you don’t have a dollar for conservation. That’s 1/3 the cost of a salmon fly.”

To make a contribution to DSF’s Peter Gray Parr Project, go to www.wildatlanticsalmon.org or mail a check to P.O. Box 201, Columbia Falls, Maine 04623. For further questions regarding donations, contact info@wildatlanticsalmon.org or call 207-483-4336.