Diadromous Fish Species:

Below is a list of the diadromous fish species of the Northwest Atlantic Ocean which includes the Canadian Maritime Provinces and the US Atlantic States. The following resource links provide information on these species.

  • Sea lamprey
  • Shortnose sturgeon
  • Atlantic sturgeon
  • Alewife
  • Atlantic salmon
  • Brook trout
  • Rainbow smelt
  • American eel
  • Atlantic tomcod
  • Striped bass
  • Blueback herring
  • American shad

Resource Links:

Historically, diadromous fish contributed to the sustenance and economic growth of the Atlantic states. However, since the industrial revolution the tolls of environmental stress, overfishing, and habitat loss were to become apparent in the longest settled parts of the country (Field 1914, Oviatt et al. 2003). Although there is now a popular drive to remove dams (Born et al. 1998, Crane 2005), with the benefit of reintroducing and rehabilitating diadromous fish runs (Lindloff 2003, Hill 2007) the unavoidable question is whether the domino effect of collapsing runs and species can be reversed. In many places dams were the coup-de-grace, eradicating diadromous fish runs altogether (NRC 2004). Beyond dams, multiple stressors have continued to complicate diadromous fish recovery in most locations. Debris choked rivers in New England and Maritime Canada before the 1960s (Perley 1852, Rounsefell and Stringer 1945) and chemicals and toxins remain a persistent problem (McMaster et al. 2006). Fish communities within rivers and estuaries have changed considerably since the full compliment of diadromous fishes were abundant. The most recent challenge faced by diadromous fish is global climate change and the predictions of physical habitat change and range shifts for diadromous species (NRC 2004, Solomon et al. 2007).

Weight of evidence suggests that single-species management may not change the fate of Atlantic salmon and other declining diadromous species (Pauly et al. 2002). Almost 4 million smolts and parr were stocked in Maine rivers in 2004 with a two-year return of just over 1,000 adults, a 0.03% return rate (Keliher 2004; Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission 2006 unpublished data). There may be a complex interplay within the diadromous species assemblage that has yet to be explored. In Pacific salmon interplay between species is an accepted paradigm (Cederholm et al. 1999, Naiman et al. 2002, Schindler et al. 2003), but in North Atlantic rivers the potential interactions between a diverse community of diadromous fishes is only just being addressed. For example, spring spawning species in Atlantic rivers deposit marine-derived nutrients in freshwater habitats (Durbin et al. 1979, Browder and Garman 1994, Cunjak et al. 2007) and have overlapping spawning habitats (e.g., lamprey and Atlantic salmon; Nislow and Kynard 2007). Like a jigsaw puzzle, loss of one piece may be preventing other interlocking ecological relationships from occurring in these rivers, suppressing production in the full suite of diadromous fish.


  • Born, S. M., K. D. Genskow, T. L. Filbert, N. Hernandez-Mora, M. L. Keefer, and K. A. White. 1998. Socioeconomic and institutional dimensions of dam removals: The Wisconsin experience. Environmental Management 22:359-370.
  • Browder, R. G., and G. C. Garman. 1994. Increased Ammonium Concentrations in a Tidal Fresh-Water Stream During Residence of Migratory Clupeid Fishes. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 123:993-996.
  • Cederholm, C. J., M. D. Kunze, T. Murota, and A. Sibatani. 1999. Pacific salmon carcasses: Essential contributions of nutrients and energy for aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Fisheries 24:6-15.
  • Crane, J. 2005. Finding the river: The destruction and restoration of the Kennebec and Elwha rivers (Maine, Washington). Dissertation Abstracts International Part A: Humanities and Social Sciences 65:253 pp.
  • Cunjak, R. A., T. D. Jardine, J. M. Roussel, and S. C. Mitchell. 2007. How marine derived nutrients enter food webs of Atlantic rivers. in A. Haro, editor. Challenges for Diadromous Fishes in a Dynamic Global Environment. American Fisheries Society, Halifax, NS.
  • Durbin, A. G., S. W. Nixon, and C. A. Oviatt. 1979. Effects of the spawning migration of the alewife, Alosa-pseudoharengus, on freshwater ecosystems. Ecology 60:8-17.
  • Field, G. W. 1914. Alewife Fishery of Massachusetts. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 43:143-151.
  • Hill, A. K. 2007. The Santee Cooperative Accord: Restoring diadromous fish through prioritization of sub-basins. in A. Haro, editor. Challenges for Diadromous Fishes in a Dynamic Global Environment. American Fisheries Society, Halifax, NS.
  • Keliher, P., editor. 2004. 2004 Annual Report of the Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission. State of Maine, Augusta, ME.
  • Lindloff, S. D. 2003. Institutionalizing the option of dam removal: The New Hampshire initiative. Water Science and Technology 48:9-16.
  • McMaster, M. E., L. M. Hewitt, and J. L. Parrott. 2006. A decade of research on the environmental impacts of pulp and paper mill effluents in Canada: Field studies and mechanistic research. Journal of Toxicology And Environmental Health-Part B-Critical
    Reviews 9:319-339.
  • Naiman, R. J., R. E. Bilby, D. E. Schindler, and J. M. Helfield. 2002. Pacific salmon, nutrients, and the dynamics of freshwater and riparian ecosystems. Ecosystems 5:399-417.
  • National Research Council (NRC). 2004. Atlantic salmon in Maine, Report from the Committee on Atlantic Salmon in Maine. National Academy Press, Washington. DC.
  • Nislow, K. H., and B. E. Kynard. 2007. The ecological role of Sea Lamprey in freshwater streams of the North Atlantic basin. in A. Haro, editor. Challenges for Diadromous Fishes in a Dynamic Global Environment. American Fisheries Society, Halifax, NS.
  • Oviatt, C., S. Olsen, M. Andrews, J. Collie, T. Lynch, and K. Raposa. 2003. A century of fishing and fish fluctuations in Narragansett Bay. Reviews in Fisheries Science 11:221-242.
  • Pauly, D., V. Christensen, S. Guenette, T. J. Pitcher, U. R. Sumaila, C. J. Walters, R. Watson, and D. Zeller. 2002. Towards sustainability in world fisheries. Nature 418:689-695.
  • Perley, M. 1852. Reports on the Sea and River Fisheries of New Brunswick, 2 edition, Fredericton.
  • Rounsefell, G., and L. Stringer. 1945. Restoration and Management of the New England Alewife Fisheries with Special Reference to Maine. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 73:394-424.
  • Schindler, D. E., M. D. Scheuerell, J. W. Moore, S. M. Gende, T. B. Francis, and W. J. Palen. 2003. Pacific salmon and the ecology of coastal ecosystems. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 1:31-37.
  • Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K. B. Averyt, M. Tignor, and H. L. Miller, editors. 2007. Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working
    Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

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