Saving Bald Mountain Pond’s Arctic Charr
Critically imperiled Arctic charr native to Maine’s Bald Mountain Pond are crashing hard and fast due to nonnative and highly invasive smelt. No Arctic charr population in Maine has survived a smelt infestation, and neither will the charr of Bald Mountain Pond unless prompt action is taken. These rare salmonids are far too valuable to let fall off the cliff.
While Native Fish Coalition would be willing to run point on this as a small start-up, we would need a lot of help -- especially financially. For this to work we need NGO help from Trout Unlimited, Audubon and The Nature Conservancy, corporate help from Patagonia, LL Bean, Orvis, and technical help from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It would be by far the largest reclamation in the history of Maine.
With nine potential spawning tribs, the smelt population at Bald Mountain Pond is probably exploding at a rate that far exceeds proliferation of past smelt infestations in Big Reed and Wadleigh Ponds. We will therefore have to act quickly if there is any chance of saving these imperiled fish.
Bald Mountain Pond charr need to be trapped and moved to a hatchery ASAP, before it is too late. In fact, some fear it may already be too late.
There are at best 12 Arctic charr populations left in the contiguous US, all of which are in Maine. Two, in Big Reed and Wadleigh Ponds, are apparently recovering from recent chemical reclamations.
Green Lake is being stocked with lake trout, the same species that hybridized Arctic charr out of existence in New Hampshire’s Sunapee Lake. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife reports that Green Lake has very few remaining charr. Pushineer Pond has a gravely diminished population as well.
Native Fish Coalition is aware of no plan to save the charr in Bald Mountain Pond. There has been talk of moving the fish to another water. While such a plan might save the pond-specific strain, it would not facilitate "no net loss," as some have suggested.
Loss of Bald Mountain Pond Arctic charr would be the first extirpation of a native charr population since loss of the Rangeley Lakes’ fish in the early 1900s. It would also be one of the worst native-fish disasters in Maine’s recent history, amounting to an 8-percent loss of charr water and a 13-percent loss of charr acreage.
Without prompt action, Maine and the nation will lose this native-fish population.
Saving the Arctic charr of Maine’s 1,152-acre Bald Mountain Pond’s will be expensive, but eminently doable. In Utah’s 283,000-acre Strawberry Reservoir the state saved its native Bonneville cutthroat trout via one of the nation’s most successful chemical reclamations.
-- Bob Mallard and Ted Williams