Downeast Ingenuity Helps Salmon Population

By Amy Jeanroy

Clamshells and acid rain don't seem to have much in common, but they are actually important parts to a true Downeast story of ingenuity. 

According to Mark Whiting, of the Maine Dept. of Environmental Protection, Acid rain is holding back salmon restoration in Eastern Maine. Having done research for some time, the conclusion is that acid rain has brought 3 problems to Maine waters; water ph and calcium are too low, and aluminum is too high. The direct result is an endangered salmon population. 

The remedy used for the past 5 years is clamshells. Applying shells to the acidic water, where they dissolve, raises the ph and improves water quality. In fact, the shells dissolve so quickly, they must be reapplied 2X's a year, and the results are promising. Clamshells also provide excellent habitat for larger fish and salamanders, offering an additional benefit to the wildlife.

The clamshells come from a unique partnership with A.C. Inc, a shellfish company in Beals, Maine. The clamshells are  a waste product of the company, and owner Albert Carver has received a "Beneficial Waste" permit which allows him to compost the shells. After a couple of months, they are clean and ready to be used in the project. 

Recently, researchers have discovered that the shell treatment may interfere with the fish fry that are in the sand at the same time as the treatments are scheduled. This means a change in the plans-both in timing of application, and perhaps a new form of delivery. Whiting is working on a plan where limestone is applied to the terrestrial  environment of the stream; the bank or sides of the water, instead of directly placing shells in the water. This treatment lasts 5-10 years, but is more costly and is difficult to apply.