East Machias Aquatic   
   Research Center
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Name:        East Machias Aquatic Research Center

Address:     13 Willow Street

                    East Machias, Maine  04654

Phone:        207-255-0676


Manager:    Jacob Van de Sande

Email:         jacob@mainesalmonrivers.org

Website:     www.mainesalmonrivers.org

Hours:        Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

                   or by appointment

Products and Services:

-research center

-conservation hatchery

-community fisheries center

-tours of museum/visitor center

-archival storage room

-stocking program

What Makes the East Machias Aquatic Research

Center Unique:

If two words were chosen to describe the aquaculture undertakings that have taken place at the East Machias Aquatic Research Center (EMARC)  “successful collaborations” would be a fitting choice. So many individuals, agencies, volunteers, and funders have worked together to get this project of restoring salmon to the East Machias River off the ground.  It has been an impressive example of a successful conservation and agricultural operation that has come about because of a great deal of cooperation.

Wild Atlantic salmon once thrived in their runs

in the rivers of New England.  In years past, hundreds of thousands of salmon returned from the rich feeding grounds off of the coast of Greenland to spawn in the fresh waters from Connecticut to Maine.  Ever since the time of European colonization the number of the wild Atlantic salmon stock declined dramatically.  The only remaining wild Atlantic salmon in our country live in eight rivers in eastern and central Maine.  In 2000, the wild Atlantic salmon were classified as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.  It is against the law to catch and keep a wild Atlantic salmon.  They must be released.

Thanks to the foresight of the Downeast Salmon Federation and the mutual concern of several individuals and agencies, steps have been taken to help restore the wild Atlantic salmon population.

Bangor Hydro Electric Company donated their former hydro and oil-powered plant and the adjacent land on the East Machias River to the Downeast Salmon Federation after the removal of the East Machias dam in 2000, and since then “the ball really got rolling.”  The Downeast Salmon Federation, which had originally been established by anglers, broadened its approach and reached out to many diverse segments of the population.  The goals of conserving wild salmon and restoring the viable salmon sports fishery expanded to include habitat protection and the natural resources of the area.

Renovation on the 7, 262 sq. ft. building was begun after several partnerships were formed.  The Downeast Salmon Federation has worked closely with local entities such as Washington Academy, the University of Maine at Machias, and the town of East Machias on the path to see this project come to fruition.

In August of 2007, a local contractor installed the water intake box and pipelines to connect the East Machias River to the hatchery.  This was able to occur because of the collaboration of the East Machias Aquatic Research Center and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA Fisheries, the Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission, and with the approval and required permits from the Army Corps of Engineers.  It is very significant that water from the East Machias River is utilized in the hatchery because it acclimates the fish to the chemistry, temperature, and natural food source of their future surroundings.

In November 2007, a 6,000 watt solar power system was installed at the hatchery by the Downeast Salmon Federation through a generous $50,000 grant from the Maine Public Utilities Commission and additional donations.

If you never had the opportunity to view the old

hydro plant that was situated on the property, it was an eyesore that was in need of quite a bit of cosmetic attention. Exterior renovations on the building took place in August 2008, thanks to private donations from many supporters.  That same year in December, the Downeast Salmon Federation received a $215,500 grant from the Maine Riverfront Community Development Bond towards the second phase of the Development Plan for the project.

February 2009 proved to be a landmark month.  The hatchery construction was completed in time to raise 20,000 landlocked fry for stocking in the East Machias River watershed.  In May 2010,  20,000 Atlantic salmon eggs were reared to stock in the East Machias River.

Additional collaborative efforts took place in 2010.  A USDA Rural Development Grant provided $100,000 to match the $100,000 raised by private donations.  This enabled the public outreach center to be built. 

The Downeast Salmon Federation has been committed to environmentally-friendly practices in the development of this project.  Besides the

solar powered system that was installed in 2007,

a decision was made to add a 1.2 kw vertical wind turbine in April 2011.  A wood pellet boiler will be used to heat the building.  The visitor’s center takes advantage of natural sunlight.

Don Sprangers volunteers as the President of the Downeast Salmon Federation Board.  He is a chemistry and coastal ecology teacher at Washington Academy.  The school has formed an amazing partnership with the East Machias Aquatic Research Center over the years.  The efforts of the students have proven instrumental in the renovation of the building.  Washington Academy students assisted with the installation of the sheetrock in the building  and they helped install the solar panels in 2007.

Mr. Sprangers’ coastal ecology students have had the opportunity to view the development of the fish from the egg stage.  They have assisted in such tasks as removing dead eggs, raising juvenile eggs from incubation to release, fin clipping, and stocking the rivers.  When Unique Maine Farms visited there was a collection of plants that had been raised by the students for habitat restoration.

In January 2012, the hatchery was insulated and

sheetrocked in time to begin rearing 90,000 salmon fry for the season.  Additional tanks were added to accommodate increased parr production. Kyle Winslow was hired in February 2012, to assist Jacob van de Sande, the fisheries biologist and hatchery manager.

When Unique Maine Farms visited the hatchery

in November of 2012, Kyle Winslow shared the history of the project and led an extremely interesting tour of the facility.  He explained how international collaborations began in November 2011, when the Downeast Salmon Federation reached out to work with the North Atlantic Salmon Fund of Iceland to implement the parr production methods that hatchery specialist Peter Gray had successfully used to restore salmon to the Tyne River on the border of Scotland and England.  Peter Gray has traveled from Scotland to the East Machias facility to provide consultation.

The alevin incubation boxes that were designed by Peter Gray reduce the stress of the newly-hatched salmon known as alevin.  The boxes enable the alevin to attain increased size before they feed and become fry.  The boxes also allow the fish to naturally emerge into the larger tanks when they are ready to feed.

The water supply to the rearing tanks can be manipulated to control the velocity of the water in the tanks.  Velocity is increased every three weeks so that the young salmon are in physical shape with good muscle tone for wild survival.  The tanks are painted black to mimic the natural dark color of the river bottom.

When Unique Maine Farms visited the hatchery in 2012, the fry had already emerged from Peter Gray’s unique incubation boxes and they had begun feeding in the new tanks.  During the previous month of October 2012, the first fall parr reared at the East Machias Aquatic Research Center had been fin clipped to mark them for assessment.  They were being stocked into the river during November when the water temperature in the East Machias River became suitable because it reached below 5 degrees centigrade.

To transport the parr, the young salmon are loaded into specialized tanks of recirculated and oxygenated water and then brought to twenty-five stocking locations on tributaries of the East Machias River where they will live for eighteen months.  They then head to sea for two years and will return as ten-pound adults in 2016.

Access to some of the remote stocking sites is extremely challenging.  Jacob van de Sande, the fisheries biologist and manager of the facility, often heads out with staff and volunteers in canoes that have oxygenated coolers holding 2,000 fish to

seed areas of small streams.  Sometimes the travel is so difficult that trails have to be bushwhacked through the thick brush.  It can be challenging to

transport the fish in five gallon pails over such rough terrain.

The East Machias Aquatic Research Center is presently involved in Phase III of their project.  It includes the construction of an archival storage room and a certified water quality laboratory and classroom on the second floor.  A GIS and technical resources center and office space for staff, students, and visiting researchers are also planned.  There will be a conference room to host groups of people.

All the individuals and agencies involved with the East Machias Aquatic Research Center should be

commended for their collaborative efforts.  So many people have stepped forward to volunteer their time and to donate towards the project.

Volunteers have proved critical in allowing this project to move forward.  Monitoring the fish in the future will involve electro fishing, smolt trapping, redd counting, and possibly sonar imagery to track the survival of the stocked salmon.

The East Machias Aquatic Research Center has a very progressive and unique philosophy.  They realize the need for conservation of many species of fish in the area including smelts, river herring, brook trout, tomcod, etc. and they are willing to study these species and their place in the ecosystem, along with the wild Atlantic salmon.

The Downeast Salmon Federation, which oversees the East Machias Aquatic Research Center, has introduced an impressive array of educational and

community outreach programs.  The Wild Salmon Resource Center and the Pleasant River Fish Hatchery provide students with an opportunity to directly learn about and see Atlantic salmon firsthand.  An educator has been hired by the Downeast Salmon Federation to work with the schools and the community.  The Downeast Salmon Federation partners with the Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery to carry out the “Salmon in Schools” program.  They have also established a trail system and interpretive signage for their 424-acre “Salmon Safe Community Forest” with grant funds received through the Maine Forest Service’s Project Canopy Program.

One of the most exciting aspects of this project is

its all-inclusiveness.  The welcoming of the Washington Academy students and students from other schools and volunteers from all backgrounds to directly take part in the conservation of an endangered fish species is a wonderful way

to influence young people and people of all ages about the significance of becoming environmental stewards.  The collaborative efforts that have been

carried out and the contributions from so many agencies, individuals, scientists, and students, give hope to the restoration of an endangered species that has been an integral part of the the recreational,

historical, environmental, and cultural composition of the Downeast area.

& HatcheryEast_Machias_Hatchery.html
the GroundsEast_Machias_Around_the_Center.html
Contributions from
Washington Academy

Kyle Winslow is shown describing the watershed area.

Photo courtesy of Downeast Salmon Federation’s Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of Downeast Salmon Federation’s Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of Downeast Salmon Federation’s Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of Downeast Salmon Federation’s Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of Downeast Salmon Federation’s Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of Downeast Salmon Federation’s Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of Downeast Salmon Federation’s Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of Downeast Salmon Federation’s Facebook page.