Maine has a long history of protecting the river herring fishery resource. In 1741, “An Act to pre-vent the Destruction of the Fish Called Ale-wives and Other Fish” was enacted. It required that any entity that erected a dam across a stream or river “where salmon, shad, alewives, or other fish which usually pass up into the natural ponds to cast their spawn” make an adequate fish passage around or through the dam and keep it open from April 1st, to June 5th. The law further required that adequate water be provided to allow the out-passage of juveniles and adults.
Today, harvesters maintain fish passages to the spawning habitat. Individual harvesters clear the streams and brooks of any impeding debris. Towns and harvesters work with state and federal agencies to restore fish passages by replacing culverts and maintaining fish ladders. Some harvesters provide temporary fish ladders to ensure access to natal spawning lakes and ponds.
Without local initiatives and follow-through alewives would be deprived of access to habitats critical for their survival. Alewife Harvesters of Maine is a critical organization in this effort.