Date of Award

2005

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs

Department

Marine Affairs

First Advisor

Seth Macinko

Abstract

In response to the severe decline of the last remnant population of wild Atlantic salmon in the United States, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Gulf of Maine distinct population segment of Atlantic salmon as endangered on November 17, 2000, pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) as amended.

Other rivers within the Gulf of Maine distinct population segment have suitable salmon habitat, but currently do not support wild populations. These river systems could be potential sites for the reintroduction of a population through the utilization of the riverspecific hatchery program. Reintroductions are addressed by section lO(j) of the ESA, which authorizes the establishment of experimental populations. The use of experimental populations to facilitate the recovery of other endangered species has been well documented; however, there is uncertainty as to whether these programs are truly contributing to recovery.

There is a pressing need to evaluate the importance of experimental populations as a recovery tool for endangered species. The literature reflects different perspectives as to how to evaluate the "success" of a reintroduction program. This thesis responds to this need by addressing the following three key research questions: 1) How do we attempt to evaluate the success of an experimental population program?; 2) How should success be defined in an Atlantic salmon experimental population program?; and 3) What implications are there for attempting to reintroduce a population of endangered Atlantic salmon in the Gulf of Maine (GOM) distinct population segment (DPS).

Based upon predominant themes in the reviewed literature, case studies examined, and the collection of survey data, conclusions were drawn with respect to the three key research questions posed in the study. In general the "success" of reintroduction programs should be defined by the creation of self-sustaining populations in the wild. Specifically related to the creation of an experimental population of Atlantic salmon, "success" should be defined primarily by the creation of a self-sustaining population in conjunction with other goals that are ranked according to the relative contributions they could make to salmon recovery. There are several implications for attempting to reintroduce a population of Atlantic salmon including: the collection of additional scientific information; expansion of the range of persistent populations of Atlantic salmon into historic habitat; improved genetic integrity through "straying" and reduction of "hatchery effect." Results drawn from the literature and survey data indicate that the collection of additional scientific data may be significant. However, potential contributions of a reintroduction to straying, range expansion, and reduction of hatchery effect are likely to be minimal.

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