July 16, 2009
IJC urges action to restore natural fish migration on St. Croix River
In a letter sent to Governor John Baldacci
of Maine on July 10, 2009, the International Joint Commission (IJC)
expressed concern about state legislation that blocks the natural
migration and spawning of alewife (river herring) in most of the St.
Croix River. A 1995 state law closed off the fish ladders at Woodland
Dam and Grand Falls Dam. The law was amended in 2008 to re-open the
fishway at Woodland Dam, but this still excludes the alewife from most
of the river.
The anadromous alewife plays an important ecological
role in the river and coastal ecosystems of the Northeast. The
scientific evidence does not support the view that alewives interfere
with the recreational fishery for introduced smallmouth bass. The IJC
urged the Governor and his administration to engage with local
stakeholders and legislators to restore the ecological integrity of the
St. Croix River, which marks the border between Canada and the United
The IJC is an independent, binational organization
established under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to assist the two
governments in the prevention and resolution of disputes related to
water resources and the environment along the shared border. In the St.
Croix basin, it is advised by the International St. Croix River
Watershed Board. The Board has identified the restoration of the
ecosystem integrity of the river by the elimination of barriers to
alewife passage as one of its top priorities. It has been active in
supporting scientific studies of alewife ecology and disseminating the
results. The Board also offers a forum for public discussion of this
and other issues in the basin. The alewife question was on the agenda
of the Board’s last public meeting, held in McAdam, New Brunswick on
June 17, 2009, attracting record attendance from American and Canadian
citizens representing a broad range of sectors and interests who spoke
overwhelmingly in favor of re-opening all fishways on the river.
Further information on the Board and its activities is available at http://www.ijc.org/conseil_board/st_croix_river/en/stcroix_home_accueil.htm.