BAILEYVILLE, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Alewives are a sea-run fish that grow in the ocean but come back to the lakes to spawn. But for the past two decades these fish have been limited to where they can go. But thanks to a new law, that is all about to change.
In 1995 a new law closed two fishways at the request of bass anglers who felt alewives were affecting sport fishing.
"Research, since, has shown that and the Department of Maine Resources have confirmed that the alewife can now help bass fishery recover on the St. Croix," said Lee Sochasky, a biologist who studies the alewife run.
And help the environment.
"We call it the fish that feeds all. You're talking from sea birds, eagles, ospreys, blue herron, to growlfish, haddock, cod, pollack," said Brian Altvator, founder of the Schoodic Riverkeepers.
"They're also important bait for the lobster industry, the state's largest commercial fishery," said Sochasky.
Woodland Dam was re-opened in 2008 and now a 600 foot fishway has been opened at Grand Falls Dam, creating more choices for where these fish can spawn.
"This fishway is the third fishway on the St. Croix. It's the one that gives access to the most water shed. Almost all of the alewife spawning habitat is above this dam," said Sochasky.
"You can't target one species without it impacting the other and i think just as long as the alewives come back that other things will start returning the way they were meant to be," said Altvator
Through the years, the number of alewives in the St. Croix have declined from more than two million in 1987 to as little as 900 in 2002. Sochasky hopes the re-opening of these fishways will increase the population.
"We're hoping to have 60,000 this year and then watch the run rebuild from there," said Sochasky.
"Within a few years when the stock starts coming back we're hopeful that the fish will reach tens of millions like it did a few hundred years ago," said Altvator.