Downeast Maine has experienced hot and dry conditions that have led to low river water levels. Unfortunately, weather that happens to be good for hanging out by the lake or grilling burgers in the backyard isn't always the best for our salmon friends. Follow the following link to the USGS river gauge on the nearby Narraguagus River (the station is roughly 32 miles southwest of the Peter Gray Hatchery): https://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/uv/?01022500.
Water temperature has been high in the Narraguagus for this time of year and the discharge (amount of water leaving the river) is hovering just a few CFS (cubic feet per second) above the lowest CFS recorded in 72 years. Along these same lines, the CFS leaving the river today is over 80 CFS lower than the median over those 7 decades on this date. You will find similar low flows across the Downeast Maine salmon rivers so far in 2020, including the East Machias River.
These types of river water conditions also correlate to challenging conditions in the Peter Gray Hatchery since we operate as an extension of the river ecosystem. The temperatures in the hatchery (and East Machias River) went from some of the coldest this spring to now some of the highest we have encountered during June. That rapid shift from cold to hot can create issues with bacteria and protozoans.
All that being said, there is an argument to be made that the salmon growing up in the Peter Gray Hatchery are continually adapting to the current state of climate change outside the hatchery window. Being exposed to the wild river conditions including temperature fluctuations and disease influences helps create a more wild hatchery salmon. This could help prevent the hatchery domestication effect that some worry about with growing fish in a hatchery. The fish at the Peter Gray Hatchery can continue to adapt to the wild, just as the fish in the river are doing. A hatchery that allows for the processes of natural selection to occur within its tanks. Perhaps this will continue to help the salmon populations of the East Machias River adapt to the changing climate, just as they have for thousands of years.
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Thank you for your time,
Some of our "little athletes" hard at work being Atlantic salmon! Source: Monini