The United States and Canada have historically struggled to delineate a maritime geographic boundary for the Gulf of Maine in the Atlantic Ocean. Running inland, from the Gulf of Maine, these countries not only share a boundary, but also dams on the St. Croix River system. For the past two decades, the St. Croix River system of Maine and New Brunswick has been the site of an increasing impasse between the United States and Canada concerning the management of fisheries resources. In 1995, this dispute culminated with the Maine legislature authorizing the modification of the Grand Falls Dam and the Woodland Dam on the St. Croix River to prevent the passage of alewives. Proponents of the bill argued that alewives were “eating machines” that killed and devoured “everything in a body of water.” Since this time, constituents within the Maine legislature, the U.S. federal government, and the Canadian government have attempted to intervene and reverse the devastating effect that the legislation has had on the rapidly declining alewife population. The alewife, known in Canada as Gaspereau, is either a landlocked or an anadromous fish. Both types of alewives are indigenous to Maine and New Brunswick waters and this comment focuses on the native, anadromous alewives that formerly ran the waters of the St. Croix River. These fish are important to the Gulf of Maine ecosystem because they provide a source of food for large and smallmouth bass, brown trout, salmonids in freshwater; groundfish in the ocean and in estuaries; and for osprey and bald eagles. Additionally, both Maine and Canadian lobstermen depend on the alewife as bait during the spring lobster season. By preventing the passage of alewives into the St. Croix River, the Maine legislature has succeeded in preventing this species of fish from spawning. The practical effect of this has been to almost completely extinguish sea-run alewives from existence in the St. Croix River system. This Comment argues that the unilateral decision by the Maine legislature to prohibit alewives from swimming upstream into Canada, and thereby preventing the fish from spawning violates not only U.S. federal law, but also international law. This Comment maintains that, from a policy perspective, state legislatures should not be the arbiters of international fisheries management decisions because foreign relations are not matters for state interference. Scientific data and studies have revealed that the presence of anadromous alewives within the St. Croix River system would have no adverse effect on either the flora or the fauna, including other species of fish, such as the smallmouth bass and salmon. Without intervention, the Maine legislature may succeed in single-handedly causing the extinction of a native species of fish, from a designated body of water. Sadly, this Comment concludes that the Maine legislature is allowed to occupy the field in this instance, and make critical decisions regarding fisheries management, because neither the U.S. Congress nor the Canadian government has precluded it from doing so. Structurally, this Comment begins with a short introduction of the alewife and its history as a native fish in the St. Croix River system. Next, a discussion of the bill, An Act to Stop the Alewives Restoration Program in the St. Croix River, and its history will follow. Then, a discussion of possible legal theories and dispute resolution devices will be shown as either inapplicable or ineffective to stop the Maine legislature’s Bill. Finally, a short policy argument will advocate for either one or both of the U.S. or Canadian governments to enact new legislation that will prohibit a single state or province from unilaterally having the ability to enact fishery management legislation that would affect surrounding states, provinces, or countries.
The Maine Legislature's Bill: An Act To Stop The Alewives Restoration Program In The St. Croix River - Have The Canadians And The Biologists Gone Beserk?,
Ocean & Coastal L.J.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/oclj/vol13/iss2/5