Making a Positive Impact


The Peter Gray Parr Project began in 2012 on Maine’s East Machias River. The project is based on successful salmon restoration methods used by Peter Gray on the River Tyne. Support and funding has increased egg availability from 81,000 in 2012 to 378,000 in 2017 (up 367%). That increased egg production has had a positive impact on the number of raised fry and parr. In fact, since the project’s inception, 672,000 fall parr have been stocked. Biologists clip the adipose fin of each parr that leaves the Peter Gray Hatchery. These fish are easily identified during future electrofishing sampling and smolt trapping. Stream sampling shows tremendous growth with juvenile salmon densities increasing from 5.3 fish/100m2 in 2013 to 14.9 fish/100m2 in 2016 (181% increase), a drainage-wide density of juvenile salmon not seen in the East Machias River since 1984. The big story is when the parr transform into smolt. As of 2016, smolt populations in the East Machias have more than doubled since the start of the project.

Why The Peter Gray Parr Project & Streamside Hatchery Are Unique


Peter Gray, the legendary British fisheries biologist, created one of the most impressive wild Atlantic salmon restoration programs in the 170 year history of Atlantic salmon conservation. Through his innovative rearing conditions in his unique streamside hatchery, he was able to strengthen salmon for survival during their epic oceanic journey. Over three decades, Gray’s efforts increased salmon returns on England’s River Tyne from 724 to over 13,000 adults. Peter Gray personally trained the biologists working on the Peter Gray Parr Project and he was actively involved in the project’s launch back in 2012.

One of the cornerstones of Gray’s methodology was a streamside hatchery that incorporates flowing river water from the salmon’s natal river. As the Peter Gray Parr Project is focused on improving runs of Downeast salmon, aquiring land and building the Peter Gray Hatchery on a Downeast river was key. In addition to the unique internal and state-of-the-art interior the hatchery is partially solar powered and eco-friendly.

Raising Alevin in Kielder Substrate Incubation Boxes


Parr netted in the East Machias River are transfered to a neighboring United States Fish and Wildlife conservation facility at Craig Brook. These parr carry the genetic composition of East Machias fish and are raised to the adult phase. In the fall, eggs from the hen salmon are fertilized with milt of the male salmon. The fertilized eggs are transported to the Peter Gray Hatchery where they are placed into trays for 3 months. Then they are placed into Kielder substrate incubation boxes. Gray designed the boxes to include water running from the salmon’s natal river over cobble mimicking a natural salmon redd.

Upon hatching from the egg, the salmon enters the alevin stage and relies on its yolk sac for nutrition. Once the egg sac is fully absorbed, the alevin swims up out of the substrate simulating gravel and enters the fry stage. When ready, the fry swims to the surface water at the top of the incubation box and enters a flow-through tube that transports it into a feeding tank.

Developing ‘Little Athletes’ in River Water Feeding Tanks


The feeding tanks are painted black to keep the coloration of the salmon in the hatchery dark, just like their in-river counterparts. The tanks use circulated East Machias River water that begins the fry’s conditioning process. Fry feed and swim against the current, and with every passing day they gain both size and strength. In the fall, when the fish are stocked in the river, they will be in a condition suited for life in the wild. This strengthening program is critical as parr spend between 1 and 3 years in the river.

Adipose Fin Clipping for Identification


When the fry have matured into parr, they are removed from the feeding tanks prior to their Fall stocking. They receive an adipose fin clip prior to stocking so they can be identified as Peter Gray Parr Project fish during future electrofishing and smolt trapping surveys.

Fall Parr Stockings Ensure Survival


Parr are stocked in the fall when water temperatures have dropped, and these lower water temperatures slow the fish’s metabolic rates. More parr survive because they focus their attention on finding overwintering habitat instead of feeding.

Parr remain in nursery areas in the river for one to three years until they reach the smolt stage. Food and water temperatures affect the amount of time they spend in the river. When ready, they swim down river in the spring to begin their life in the open ocean.

They remember the “smell” of their natal river and once they have grown for a couple of years in the ocean, they utilize the “smell” to travel back to the river of their birth to spawn.

Smolt Trapping: A Final Check-Up


Seabound smolt are trapped to gather one final piece of data. The PGPP team works with the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) staff operating rotary screw traps borrowed from NOAA Fisheries. Each trap is made up of three basic parts – a cone, pontoons and a live car. The cone sits on its side in the river with the wide end facing up-stream. At the back of the trap, the narrow end fits into a live car which holds the smolt until the trap is tended. These traps are tended at least once per day and the salmon population is estimated using a mark-recapture study. All salmon are measured, weighed, checked for tags or markings. Newly captured salmon are then marked with a small tail punch and released upstream. This tail punch not only functions as a mark but also provides tissue from each fish for genetic analysis.

The number of marked fish re-captured indicates the efficiency of the rotary screw traps. Using this number, it is determined what percentage of the population are actually captured in the traps. The capture percentage is used to estimate the overall size of the outgoing smolt population. Because all of the fish from the Peter Gray Hatchery have fins clipped prior to stocking it is known which fish are stocked and which fish are wild. It is also determined which fish leave the river which later helps determine ocean survival rates of returning adults.

Out to Sea


The restoration of wild Atlantic salmon in the United States takes time, just as it did on Peter Gray’s River Tyne. Every benchmark has shown dramatic increases, from egg production to parr stocking to departing smolt. Some might reason that we wait for five years and assess the number of returning grilse and salmon, but given the proven successes of Peter Gray’s methodology we plan to continue raising more eggs, alevin, fry and parr. Only then can we ensure a progressive return of wild Atlantic salmon to Maine’s waters. Conservation costs money and we need your help. Please pledge today.

Making a Positive Impact


The Peter Gray Parr Project began in 2012 on Maine’s East Machias River. The project is based on successful salmon restoration methods used by Peter Gray on the River Tyne. Support and funding has increased egg availability from 81,000 in 2012 to 378,000 in 2017 (up 367%). That increased egg production has had a positive impact on the number of raised fry and parr. In fact, since the project’s inception, 672,000 fall parr have been stocked. Biologists clip the adipose fin of each parr that leaves the Peter Gray Hatchery. These fish are easily identified during future electrofishing sampling and smolt trapping. Stream sampling shows tremendous growth with juvenile salmon densities increasing from 5.3 fish/100m2 in 2013 to 14.9 fish/100m2 in 2016 (181% increase), a drainage-wide density of juvenile salmon not seen in the East Machias River since 1984. The big story is when the parr transform into smolt. As of 2016, smolt populations in the East Machias have more than doubled since the start of the project.

Why The Peter Gray Parr Project & Streamside Hatchery Are Unique


Peter Gray, the legendary British fisheries biologist, created one of the most impressive wild Atlantic salmon restoration programs in the 170 year history of Atlantic salmon conservation. Through his innovative rearing conditions in his unique streamside hatchery, he was able to strengthen salmon for survival during their epic oceanic journey. Over three decades, Gray’s efforts increased salmon returns on England’s River Tyne from 724 to over 13,000 adults. Peter Gray personally trained the biologists working on the Peter Gray Parr Project and he was actively involved in the project’s launch back in 2012.

One of the cornerstones of Gray’s methodology was a streamside hatchery that incorporates flowing river water from the salmon’s natal river. As the Peter Gray Parr Project is focused on improving runs of Downeast salmon, aquiring land and building the Peter Gray Hatchery on a Downeast river was key. In addition to the unique internal and state-of-the-art interior the hatchery is partially solar powered and eco-friendly.

Raising Alevin in Kielder Substrate Incubation Boxes


Parr netted in the East Machias River are transfered to a neighboring United States Fish and Wildlife conservation facility at Craig Brook. These parr carry the genetic composition of East Machias fish and are raised to the adult phase. In the fall, eggs from the hen salmon are fertilized with milt of the male salmon. The fertilized eggs are transported to the Peter Gray Hatchery where they are placed into trays for 3 months. Then they are placed into Kielder substrate incubation boxes. Gray designed the boxes to include water running from the salmon’s natal river over cobble mimicking a natural salmon redd.

Upon hatching from the egg, the salmon enters the alevin stage and relies on its yolk sac for nutrition. Once the egg sac is fully absorbed, the alevin swims up out of the substrate simulating gravel and enters the fry stage. When ready, the fry swims to the surface water at the top of the incubation box and enters a flow-through tube that transports it into a feeding tank.

Developing ‘Little Athletes’ in River Water Feeding Tanks


The feeding tanks are painted black to keep the coloration of the salmon in the hatchery dark, just like their in-river counterparts. The tanks use circulated East Machias River water that begins the fry’s conditioning process. Fry feed and swim against the current, and with every passing day they gain both size and strength. In the fall, when the fish are stocked in the river, they will be in a condition suited for life in the wild. This strengthening program is critical as parr spend between 1 and 3 years in the river.

Adipose Fin Clipping for Identification


When the fry have matured into parr, they are removed from the feeding tanks prior to their Fall stocking. They receive an adipose fin clip prior to stocking so they can be identified as Peter Gray Parr Project fish during future electrofishing and smolt trapping surveys.

Fall Parr Stockings Ensure Survival


Parr are stocked in the fall when water temperatures have dropped, and these lower water temperatures slow the fish’s metabolic rates. More parr survive because they focus their attention on finding overwintering habitat instead of feeding.

Parr remain in nursery areas in the river for one to three years until they reach the smolt stage. Food and water temperatures affect the amount of time they spend in the river. When ready, they swim down river in the spring to begin their life in the open ocean.

They remember the “smell” of their natal river and once they have grown for a couple of years in the ocean, they utilize the “smell” to travel back to the river of their birth to spawn.

Smolt Trapping: A Final Check-Up


Seabound smolt are trapped to gather one final piece of data. The PGPP team works with the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) staff operating rotary screw traps borrowed from NOAA Fisheries. Each trap is made up of three basic parts – a cone, pontoons and a live car. The cone sits on its side in the river with the wide end facing up-stream. At the back of the trap, the narrow end fits into a live car which holds the smolt until the trap is tended. These traps are tended at least once per day and the salmon population is estimated using a mark-recapture study. All salmon are measured, weighed, checked for tags or markings. Newly captured salmon are then marked with a small tail punch and released upstream. This tail punch not only functions as a mark but also provides tissue from each fish for genetic analysis.

The number of marked fish re-captured indicates the efficiency of the rotary screw traps. Using this number, it is determined what percentage of the population are actually captured in the traps. The capture percentage is used to estimate the overall size of the outgoing smolt population. Because all of the fish from the Peter Gray Hatchery have fins clipped prior to stocking it is known which fish are stocked and which fish are wild. It is also determined which fish leave the river which later helps determine ocean survival rates of returning adults.

Out to Sea


The restoration of wild Atlantic salmon in the United States takes time, just as it did on Peter Gray’s River Tyne. Every benchmark has shown dramatic increases, from egg production to parr stocking to departing smolt. Some might reason that we wait for five years and assess the number of returning grilse and salmon, but given the proven successes of Peter Gray’s methodology we plan to continue raising more eggs, alevin, fry and parr. Only then can we ensure a progressive return of wild Atlantic salmon to Maine’s waters. Conservation costs money and we need your help. Please pledge today.

Help us Restore Maine's Wild Atlantic Salmon Population


$1 per parr. Restore one or restore thousands. All donations will make a difference!

The goal of the Peter Gray Parr Project is to increase the number of parr raised and stocked to over 2,000,000. At an estimated cost of just over $1 per parr, we must raise 2.2 million dollars to support this restoration. For every dollar donated, contributors will quite literally be putting more parr in the East Machias River and directly impacting the restoration of Maine's wild Atlantic salmon population.

PETER GRAY PARR PROJECT GOAL


Restore over 2,000,000 Wild Atlantic Salmon Parr to the East Machias River.

GOAL TRACKER


Financial progress towards restoring over 2,000,000 Wild Atlantic Salmon Parr into the East Machias River

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