Reclaiming a Space for Diadromous Fish in the Public Psyche and Sense of Place

Diadromous species historically dominated the freshwater fish community in coastal northeastern United States rivers. As these fishes declined in concert with sweeping alterations to the region’s waterscapes, so too did their utility, visibility, and relevance to each passing human generation. Due to their historically iconic status, we used endangered Atlantic Salmon Salmo salar as a springboard in our study of attitudes and values about fish in the context of modern human connections to places and the water bodies therein. We surveyed Maine residents about their connections to local water bodies and fish populations. Respondents were generally apathetic toward fish overall, but they valued the water bodies in their home turf as escapes from daily stressors. We explored this finding as it relates to motivating behavior and redefining contemporary baselines of water body health, which may help restore Maine’s diadromous fish community to a local and regional treasure and commodity. Understanding the facets of sense of place, including satisfaction and attachment, can ultimately help to reframe how we communicate with the public about acting on behalf of the places they care about that overlap with important fish habitat.

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