Maine's Arctic Char Endangered

Maine's Arctic Char Endangered
Photo by Bob Mallard

An endangered Arctic Char in Maine is under threat from invasive Smelt in its home water, and resource managers are now apparently discussing relocating the entire population. Bald Mountain Pond is home to one of only twelve of the last remaining wild Arctic Char populations in the US, which are considered the oldest strains in North America. The Bald Mountain lineage in particular represents unique adaptations owing to thousands of years of isolation.

According to Wikipedia, "Arctic Char are native to New England, Canada, Alaska and Europe. Once found in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, they are now extant in Maine only. Maine's Arctic char are the southernmost populations in the world and reported to be the oldest strain in North America."

"Maine's Arctic Char are the rarest freshwater salmonid east of the Rocky Mountains. They are classified as a Tier-1 Species of Greatest Conservation Need by MDIFW, the same classification as federally endangered Atlantic salmon. They are classified as Threatened by the Endangered Species Committee of the American Fisheries Society."

Bald Mountain Pond, like many lakes in Maine, was carved out of solid granite during the last ice age. When the glaciers retreated, the landscape was covered with depressions that were interconnected by flooded melt waters. As climate conditions continued to become relatively more dry, lakes like Bald Mountain Pond became isolated genetic reservoirs for ice age fishes such as Arctic Char. Freshwater Smelt are seen as competing with larval Char for plankton sized food sources, and were probably introduced to the lake as bait -- in violation of Maine law protecting Bald Mountain as a designated conservation resource.


While the value of the Bald Mountain Pond fish has been recognized from a scientific standpoint, advocates are saying that the response from fisheries managers needs to be rethought. Bob Mallard, speaking for the Native Fish Coalition, issued a group message to stake holders last week indicating the dire nature of the situation and the need for new solutions.


"To date there is no plan to try to save the Bald Mountain Pond Char that we are aware of, at least in their historic water. While there is talk of moving the fish to another water, (and) while this may save the pond-specific strain, this is not a "no net loss" as some are trying to claim. In fact, while acting as a gene bank, the population would (become) no more or less valuable than any other introduced population."


Mallard continues, "Losing the Bald Mountain Pond Arctic Char would be the first loss of a native Arctic Char population since Rangeley Lake in the early 1900's and one of the worst ecological disasters in recent Maine history regarding native fish."

Mallard's overall point is assumed to reference the identified genetic adaptations of the Bald Mountain Pond fish relative to the specific conditions of the lake, which would presumably change in a new translocated environment.


University of Maine Ph.D. Biology program grad student Brad Erdman weighed in on the debate, saying, "The biggest risk at the moment is losing the entire Bald Mountain strain and the local adaptations that comes with it. I think we're all on the same page that a healthy population in its original waterbody is much more valuable than a translocated population."

Options for saving Bald Mountain Pond's Char population are complex and potentially expensive, including eradication of all existing populations and reintroduction of desired species, which can have unexpected consequences within ecological webs. Policy makers who are dealing with limited budgets and political realities will have to weigh their choices carefully in the face of what appear to be looming timelines to save a population that has been termed to be at critical risk.


Native fishes in their historical environments present a unique opportunity for emerging science to understand the factors that will allow for more interpretive management practices in the future.  Hopefully, new data will help managers fulfill conservation goals.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcrZ5qSqZjU&feature=youtu.be[/embed]

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

Bass

How to Catch Smallmouth Bass on Topwater Flies

Dave Karczynski and Tim Landwehr

Modern methods for catching smallmouths on topwater flies.

Fly Tying

Tying the Kamikaze Sculpin

Charlie Craven

The Kamikaze Sculpin is easy to tie, versatile, and smartly designed to get the job done.

News

2019 Most Endangered Rivers

Fly Fisherman - April 16, 2019

American Rivers today released its annual list of America's Most Endangered Rivers,...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Bahamas - Bonefish

Conway casts for his personal best bonefish while fishing the Grand Bahama islands.

Amazing Zipless Fly Vest!

William Joeseph introduced a remarkable zipper-free fly pack that features a surprising watertight magnetic seal.

Fly Fishing for Taimen in Mongolia

Finding giant Mongolia taimen and a state of enlightenment.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

United States

Wind River Range Wyoming

Greg Thomas - July 27, 2015

Golden riches in Wyoming's high-country heaven of the Wind River Range.

Industry

Fly Fishing Community Stunned by Twin Slayings on Belize Saltwater Flat

Fly Fisherman Online Staff - June 27, 2019

The fly fishing communities in the U.S. and Belize are mourning after twin slayings that...

Fly Tying

Best Panfish Flies

Skip Morris - October 17, 2016

Best Panfish Flies

See More Stories

More Industry

Industry

Abe's Fly Shop Turns 60

Jay Walden - February 22, 2019

It began with love of a river that he fished as a boy with his father, and a passion for the...

Industry

That Guy Fly Fishing on the National Mall

Jonathan Wright - June 11, 2018

As reported, a man was spotted fly fishing on the National Mall in Washington D.C after heavy...

Industry

Tom Rosenbauer Receives Izaak Walton Award

Ross Purnell - March 13, 2019

Tom Rosenbauer received the 2019 Izaak Walton Award on March 12, 2019.

See More Industry

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×