State Officials Join Students for Annual Salmon Stocking in Western Massachusetts
100,000 young salmon released in tributaries of Westfield River
CHESTER - Tuesday, May 3, 2011 - As part of a joint federal and state species restoration effort, Massachusetts environmental officials today joined students and teachers in Chester to release 100,000 half-inch long salmon into the West Branch of the Westfield River.
Students from Chester Elementary School assisted Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. and Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Commissioner Mary Griffin in stocking the river behind the school. The annual event is part of an ongoing endeavor to restore Atlantic salmon to its native habitat in the Connecticut River watershed.
"This annual stocking is crucial in reintroducing Atlantic salmon back into this part of the Connecticut River," said Secretary Sullivan. "Today we celebrate the partnership among state, federal and local interests, which make this restoration effort a success. We are grateful to everyone, especially the students and their teachers, involved in this effort."
Atlantic salmon are making a steady comeback in the Connecticut River, thanks to a cooperative restoration program run by Massachusetts and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
DFG's Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) staff and a cadre of volunteers are planning to stock 1.5 million state and federal hatchery-raised salmon fry (baby salmon) into Connecticut River tributaries during the spring. The fry come from MassWildlife's Roger Reed Hatchery in Palmer and the White River National Fish Hatchery in Bethel, Vermont. Fry are trucked to stocking sites where volunteers gather to aid in the release.
"I would like to thank Chester Elementary School administrators, teachers, and students for helping us with the release of Atlantic salmon fry into this beautiful cold water stream," said Commissioner Griffin. "The Atlantic salmon restoration effort is very labor intensive and we greatly appreciate the efforts of MassWildlife staff and volunteers who assist us in this important program."
The Connecticut River's once-abundant native Atlantic salmon population was nearly eliminated 200 years ago due to the development of dams that blocked their migration from the sea to their spawning grounds in rivers. As a result of the 20-year 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. Adult salmon weighing eight to 15 pounds return to their native streams to repeat the spawning cycle after living at sea for two to three years.
In addition to stocking salmon fry, MassWildlife's migratory fish programs include monitoring fish passage at dams on the Connecticut, Westfield, and Merrimack Rivers; 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.
Volunteers from high schools, sporting clubs, watershed associations, civic groups, colleges, and other people with a passion for rivers, fish, or fishing have assisted the DFG personnel in the Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon restoration program.