For 178 years, dams stood across the Penobscot River here, obstructing salmon and other river-run fish from reaching the watershed’s vast spawning grounds, which extend all the way to the Quebec border.
Now, two years after the dam’s removal, the salmon’s proponents fear the fish face a more fearsome threat: a warming sea.
In recent years, the Gulf of Maine has been one of the fastest-warming parts of the world’s oceans, and climate change models project average sea surface temperatures here to increase by another 5.5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2065, a development that could extirpate Atlantic salmon and other cold-loving species, many of which already find Maine at the southern edge of their ranges.
“We’re all for taking down the dams and all the things that are going on to restore habitat, but how much are they looking at the evidence?” asks Gerhard Pohle of the Huntsman Marine Science Center in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, co-author of a study predicting how the changes are likely to affect 33 commercial species over the next 75 years. “Distribution of salmon in the Gulf of Maine would be such that there wouldn’t be many left at all.”
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