What? An attack on the New England Atlantic salmon argument developed by archaeologist Catherine Carroll Carlson in her controversial 1992 UMass-Amherst Ph.D. dissertation: “The Atlantic salmon in New England prehistory and history: social and environmental implications?”

You betcha! Dr. Carlson’s often-referred-to thesis has indeed been challenged. Which doesn’t mean Carlson is buying the arguments of an obscure 2013 UMass research paper’s critical assessment of her conclusions. No sir. She’s firing back.

But first, a refresher on the Carlson theory, which shook the New England salmon-restoration establishment, and particularly those involved in the now-defunct Connecticut Valley program.

Based on the archaeological record from 75 known prehistoric Northeastern fishing sites nearly absent of Atlantic salmon remains from Newfoundland to Long Island, Carlson concluded that salmon came here with the Little Ice Age (1300 to 1850) and were never here in the great numbers reported by the earliest historical accounts. In fact, she went so far as to argue that some of the reports were intentionally exaggerated as real-estate marketing tools to attract new settlers to infant New England. Plus, another factor contributing to overstating the salmon population was the misnaming of American shad as “white salmon” often mentioned in primary reports filed by early explorers and chroniclers who were not familiar with American shad, the staple of anadromous fish stocks in southern New England rivers like the Connecticut.

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