Maine salmon teeter on the edge of extinction

Endangered Maine salmon don’t get as much press as their sexy Pacific Northwest cousins (what, you don’t find salmon sexy?). But they may be closer to extinction. Currently only about 80 adult salmon return from the ocean each year to spawn in the eight Maine rivers where they’re endangered. The government has spent five years and at least $20 million on efforts to restore the once-abundant fish, with a focus on breeding them in hatcheries for release into streams, but this strategy has had limited success. So now researchers are debating riskier steps, like putting salmon from more successful runs into the eight rivers to learn why they do better than the natives, even though this might pollute the gene pool of the endangered fish. Conservationist Andrew Goode says the problem is the focus on just one species instead of whole ecosystems. “To save Atlantic salmon,” he says, “we need to save all the native species in the rivers.”