Harvester perspectives on alewives, blueback herring, and American eels in Downeast Maine

Fishermen and women, by virtue of spending much of their time on the water with hooks, lines, traps, and nets, have intimate knowledge of coastal, marine, and freshwater ecosystems. They know, in detail, the local distribution, abundance, and behavior of the species they harvest, knowledge gained from years of first-hand observations and experimentation with different fishing techniques.

In 2014, Maine Sea Grant and NOAA Fisheries received funding from NOAA’s Preserve America Initiative to document and share harvesters’ knowledge of alewives, blueback herring, and American eels in Downeast Maine. These species have been harvested by residents of Downeast Maine for centuries and are an important part of the region’s fishing heritage. All three species are diadromous: they spend part of their lives at sea and part in freshwater. In doing so, they create important ecological links between freshwater and marine ecosystems.

Watch the full collection of videos in which harvesters share their perspectives.

Links to individual videos:

The Fish that Feeds All
River Restoration in Downeast Maine
Maintaining Alewife and Blueback Populations
Elver Economics
Abundant Elvers
What If There Were No River Fisheries in Downeast Maine?
Alewives in the St. Croix River
Harvesting Alewives at the Orland River
Harvesting Alewives at Grist Mill Stream



More information:

Narrative histories of alewife/blueback herring and American eel fisheries on the Downeast Fisheries Trail website.

This project has led to an expanded survey of alewife/blueback herring harvesters along the Atlantic Coast.