NOAA 99-R154
Contact: Gordon Helm


A biological report released jointly by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service confirms that wild Atlantic salmon are in danger of extinction despite considerable efforts to ensure their survival. The status of the salmon under the Endangered Species Act is now pending before the federal court in Washington D.C., and the United States will be making a court filing on the case next Friday, October 15. By that time, the federal agencies will make and announce decisions following on the report being released today.

"The State of Maine has worked hard to conserve Atlantic salmon indigenous to the Gulf of Maine through its conservation plan, and the plan will provide a solid foundation for future recovery efforts," said Jamie Rappaport Clark, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "We will continue working with the State of Maine and its partners to support implementation of the existing plan. Nevertheless, this population is facing increasing threats to its existence. These are the last remaining naturally reproducing wild Atlantic salmon known to exist in the United States. Our New England office will work closely with the State of Maine to replenish Atlantic salmon for future generations."

"Atlantic salmon are an important part of the heritage of Maine and we must do everything possible to ensure their survival and recovery," said Penny Dalton, director of NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service. "It is critical now that we work together with the state, industry, and conservationists to redouble our efforts to protect wild salmon."

In the biological review, Status Review for Anadromous Atlantic Salmon in the United States, a team of federal biologists from the services documented changes in the status of isolated groups of wild Atlantic salmon. These salmon are found in several rivers and tributaries in the area of Maine that includes the Kennebec River basin and extends east to the St. Croix River near the U.S.-New Brunswick, Canada border.

The report concludes that fewer adult salmon are returning to spawn and young salmon in the rivers are surviving at a lower rate than expected. The prospects for the stocks in the downeast rivers is poor unless greater protection can be put in place. These include controls on water diversion to ensure flow in the rivers, restrictions on recreational fishing that catch wild salmon, and aquaculture safeguards. The services are working with the state to address these issues, but the process needs to be broadened and accelerated.


In December, 1997, the two services, which share the responsibility for making a recommendation on whether Atlantic salmon should be federally protected, withdrew a proposal to list the salmon in Maine as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The services determined that existing protection for the species, including the newly developed State of Maine's Atlantic Salmon Conservation Plan, was adequate and that listing the species under the ESA was not warranted at that time. Since then, some progress has been made to implement the conservation plan. However, some threats remain unresolved and need to be addressed.

For a copy of the biological status review, contact: Paul Nickerson, USFWS, 300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, MA 01035 or Mary Colligan, NMFS Protected Resources Division, One Blackburn Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the federal aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is the principal steward of the nation's living marine resources, regulating the nation's commercial and recreational fisheries and managing species under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act throughout federal waters which extend 200 miles from the coastline. An agency of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA Fisheries also protects marine and anadromous species under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.