For Immediate Release - May 04, 2010

State Fish and Game Officials Join Students for Annual Salmon Stocking in Western Massachusetts

102,000 young salmon released in tributaries of Westfield River

CHESTER - May 4, 2010 - As part of a federal and state species restoration effort, Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Commissioner Mary Griffin today joined students, teachers, and wildlife officials to release 102,000 half-inch long salmon into the West Branch of the Westfield River.

Students from Chester Elementary School met with Commissioner Griffin and MassWildlife Anadromous Fish Project Leader Caleb Slater to stock the river behind the school. The annual event is part of an ongoing project to restore Atlantic salmon to its native habitat in the Connecticut River watershed. Third and fourth grade students have been raising the fry and learning about Atlantic salmon restoration during school this year.

"Species restoration is an extremely difficult endeavor and we greatly appreciate all of the volunteers who help us in the effort to bring back naturally reproducing Atlantic salmon in the Connecticut River watershed," Commissioner Griffin said. "Our spring fish stocking events are a great opportunity for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages to participate in and learn about wildlife and environmental stewardship."

Atlantic salmon are making a steady comeback in the Connecticut River, thanks to a cooperative restoration program run by Massachusetts and other New England state wildlife agencies and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

DFG's Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) staff and a cadre of volunteers will stock 1.5 million state and federal hatchery-raised salmon fry (baby salmon) into Connecticut River tributaries during April and May.

The fry for Massachusetts stocking come from MassWildlife's Roger Reed Hatchery in Palmer and the White River National Fish Hatchery in Bethel,Vermont.

The Connecticut River's once-abundant native runs of Atlantic salmon were extirpated 200 years ago due to the development of dams that blocked their migration from the sea to rivers. As a result of the 20-year Connecticut River salmon restoration program, several hundred adult Atlantic salmon once again return to the Connecticut River to spawn each year.

Female salmon bury fertilized eggs in stream bottom gravel nests in late autumn and fry hatch in late winter and emerge from the gravel in early spring. After living for two years in freshwater, young salmon migrate to the ocean where they grow to maturity. After living two to three years at sea, adult salmon weighing eight to 15 pounds return to their native streams to repeat the spawning cycle.

In addition to stocking salmon fry, MassWildlife's migratory fish programs include monitoring fish passage at dams on the Connecticut, Westfield, and MerrimackRivers; trapping salmon and shad for transport to hatcheries or upstream locations; working with federal agencies to ensure safe upstream and downstream fish passage at hydroelectric dams; and helping local watershed groups improve freshwater fish habitat.