Written by Melissa Wood
Rivers teeming with spawning salmon like those in Alaska are a distant memory for East Coast fishermen, but it wasn't always this way. For ages, Atlantic salmon's run extended from Canada down to Long Island Sound. In Maine commercial production peaked with catches of 200,000 pounds in the late 1800s and ended soon after, with just 40 fish caught in the Penobscot fishery in 1948. Now Maine is the last place on the U.S. East Coast that salmon can now be found in the wild, and it is scarce.
"Turning Tail: The Atlantic Salmon's Great New Leap" is a new movie airing tonight and Saturday on Maine Public Television that looks at efforts to bring it back. Since development ended salmon's eastern runs, undoing some of it is the key to salmon's recovery here. A major step was made with the removal of the 200-year-old Penobscot River's Great Works Dam in June.
Watching the preview reminded me of Alaska's Pebble Mine controversy. Opponents of the mine say its location in the headwaters of the Kvichak and Nushagak Rivers could be devastating to Bristol Bay's salmon run, which supports a $500 million commercial fishery. Will modern precautionary measures avoid disaster or are we still learning the lesson about development's potential harm to wild ecosystems? As one person interviewed on the film preview says, "It's easy to mess something up. It's hard to put it back together."
Here's a preview of the movie, which also takes a look at Canada's resurging populations and explores the mystery of where salmon go while they are at sea.
"Turning Tail: The Atlantic Salmon's Great New Leap" will be broadcast on Maine Public Television tonight at 10 p.m. and Saturday at 11 a.m. To learn more, visit the film's website: www.ggpfilms.com.
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