Atlantic Salmon Celebrated in the Lake Champlain Basin
For just the third time in more than 150 years, scientists have found naturally-reproduced Atlantic salmon fry in the Lake Champlain Basin. The discovery this summer in the North Branch of the Boquet River in New York is an encouraging milestone for scientists and anglers. And it is timed perfectly, as the LCBP and partners celebrate the International Year of the Salmon.
The LCBP is working this year with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM), and other partners to showcase the “Salmosphere” and to highlight the role of salmon in the history of the region and efforts to restore this important fishery.
Dr. Eric Howe, LCBP Director, said, “The International Year of the Salmon comes at an exciting time for Atlantic salmon restoration in the Lake Champlain Basin. The recent confirmation of natural reproduction and new advances in restoration science are good reason to celebrate this magnificent species.”
Andrew Milliken, USFWS Project Leader for the Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office said, “We are thrilled to celebrate the return of natural reproduction of salmon in the Champlain Basin during the International Year of the Salmon and recognize the cooperative efforts of many partners that have worked for many years to make it happen.”
The July discovery of fry in the Boquet comes three years after the first natural salmon reproduction was confirmed in the Winooski River after a long absence in the Basin. Atlantic salmon were once abundant in local waters. Colonial-era reports share stories of horses refusing to cross salmon-clogged streams and of soldiers harvesting the spawning fish with pitchforks. But by the mid-1800s, the fish were gone, victims of dams that blocked access to spawning areas, habitat destruction, and other human pressures.
A number of commemorative events are sharing this history and the story of recovery across the Lake Champlain basin in 2019:
- The LCBP and USFWS developed a series of traveling exhibits that interpret the life cycle, history, and efforts to restore salmon in the Basin. The exhibits are on display at more than a dozen venues throughout the year, and are available for loan.
- The LCMM’s replica canal schooner Lois McClure shared the history, ecology, and conservation story of the Atlantic salmon in Lake Champlain on its 2019 voyage around the lake. The interpretive exhibits are traveling with the schooner, which will be open for tours at the museum in Vergennes, VT in August.
- The LCBP, USFWS and Peregrine Productions partnered to produce Bringing Back Salmon, a three-part video series that chronicles Atlantic salmon restoration efforts in the Basin, including the removal the Willsboro Dam on the Boquet River, advances in restoration science, and the mutual benefits of salmon restoration and water quality improvement.
- The LCBP also has developed a National Park Service Passport for collectors and a trivia challenge based on the traveling interpretive exhibit. Participants can earn a special-edition, International Year of the Salmon coin.
- Two salmon-focused “missions” that use the educational Agents of Discovery App are available at the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge in Swanton, VT and the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.
- A Salmon Festival is planned for October 5, 2019 in Richmond, Vermont. The day-long celebration will include talks on salmon restoration and conservation, salmon-themed videos, a guided paddle on the Winooski River, a stocking of fall fingerling salmon, and fly-casting lessons.
These efforts to commemorate the International Year of the Salmon recognize and depend on the work of the Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Management Cooperative. This partnership between USFWS, Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, New York State DEC, and other state agencies, universities, and research organizations have worked to restore salmon in Lake Champlain since the early 1970s. Many anglers, educators, and conservationists also have worked tirelessly to restore the Atlantic salmon fishery in Lake Champlain.
Visit lcbp.org/salmon to learn more Atlantic salmon restoration efforts in Lake Champlain and the International Year of the Salmon events and exhibits.