Atlantic Salmon

Baby wild Atlantic salmon, Togus Stream, Kennebec River. Doug Watts photo.
KR members have been involved as citizen intervenors and legal plaintiffs since 1996 in litigation to protect native Atlantic salmon in Maine under the United States Endangered Species Act. In 2000, this legal action resulted in ESA protection for Atlantic salmon in eight small eastern Maine rivers -- but not in the fishes' largest river homes -- the Penobscot, Androscoggin and Kennebec.

In 2005 KR members Tim and Doug Watts filed a formal 35-page scientific petition to protect the dozen or so remnant wild Atlantic salmon left in the Kennebec River under the ESA. Ed Friedman and Kathleen McGee of Bowdoinham, Maine joined us. After no action was taken on our petition for three years, we sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service in Federal Court and in 2009 they agreed to list the remnant wild Atlantic salmon of the Kennebec, Androscoggin River and Penobscot Rivers as endangered species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

In 2009 and 2010, the failure by the USFWS and NMFS to take any concrete action to enforce ESA protections for Atlantic salmon in the Kennebec, Androscoggin and Penobscot Rivers caused us to file suit in U.S. District Court against the owners of eight hydroelectric dams on the lower Kennebec and Androscoggin Rivers for killing and maiming Atlantic salmon in their hydroelectric turbines in violation of the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

The conservation groups Environment Maine and Friends of Merrymeeting Bay joined as formal plaintiffs with legal counsel provided by the National Environmental Law Center (NELC) and public interest attorneys David Nicholas of Newton, Mass. and Bruce Merrill of Portland, Maine. This lawsuit, which is the largest ESA lawsuit in New England history, is now wending its tortuous way through the federal court process.

PROJECT STATUS: Trial on all cases before Justice George Singal, U.S. District Court (Maine), expected to begin in July 2012.

Child in Augusta, Maine with Atlantic salmon c. 1930s.