Protecting Maine's Brook Trout through Legislation and Regulation

Monday, August 18, 2014: 1:30 PM
206A (Centre des congrès de Québec // Québec City Convention Centre)
Dana DeGraaf , Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, State of Maine, Augusta, ME
Maine has more than 1,000 lakes and ponds with substantial brook trout populations and is considered the last true stronghold for native brook trout, with more than 97% of the remaining lake and pond populations in the US. To protect these brook trout populations, the Maine legislature enacted LD 1131 “An Act to Recognize and Protect the Native Eastern Brook Trout as Maine’s Heritage Fish” in 2005. This legislation protects Maine’s native (i.e. never been stocked; A-list waters) brook trout waters in two ways; the statute 1) prohibits the stocking of interspecific or intraspecific predator, prey, or competitor fish species from any hatchery or wild source without legislative approval, and 2) prohibits the use and possession of live bait fish on those waters. LD 1131 was amended and directed the Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) to review "wild brook trout waters" (i.e. historically stocked) and report whether or not those waters were suitable for inclusion on the A-list.  The MDIFW reported that wild brook trout lakes and ponds had not been entirely isolated from the impacts of stocking but concluded, however, that the wild brook trout waters were an important resource and were organized under a B-list. B-list waters are defined as waters that 1) have not been directly stocked with brook trout in at least 25 years; 2) have self-sustaining brook trout populations; and 3) are considered a principal brook trout fishery. The current effort to protect Maine’s B-list waters from the introduction of competing species with policy similar to the A-list has been ongoing. After six years, several concerns have been raised (e.g., interspecific stocking and the use and possession of live fish as bait) and continue to be at the forefront of discussions today. The MDIFW has created a public working group to address these concerns. Recent recommendations from the working group include elimination of live fish as bait, reduction or elimination of stocking other salmonids (i.e. landlocked salmon, togue, splake), and certification of clean bait through a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) program. Degradation to brook trout habitat throughout their native range continues; proactive management changes in Maine may be even more necessary as a means to better protect brook trout within their North American range.  These management approaches are being developed by MDIFW administration. The current status of Maine’s protective regulations for brook trout and proposed changes will be discussed.