NEWPORT, Maine — The Maine Marine Patrol on April 3 issued a summons to Phillip Parker, 41 of Candia, N.H., in the largest case of illegal possession of elvers in the history of the fishery, according to a marine patrol news release.
Marine patrol Sgt. Rene Cloutier, along with Officer John Luellen, apprehended Parker in Newport after an investigation revealed that the New Hampshire man intended to sell 41 pounds of elvers, potentially worth more than $80,000, without a Maine elver-harvesting license.
“This case underscores the importance of strong laws protecting our natural resources,” Gov. Paul R. LePage said in the news release. “Maine’s natural resources have great value for our state, and for law-abiding license holders, their families and the communities they live in.”
Maine law prohibits the possession of elvers without a valid license. Maine and South Carolina are the only two states with an elver fishery.
The fine for illegal possession of elvers in Maine is up to $2,000. That is an insufficient deterrent according to Maine Department of Marine Resources officials, given the $2,000-per-pound value of elvers in Maine.
A bill before the Maine Legislature, LD 632, will criminalize violations of elver fishery laws, including illegal possession.
“This bill would allow for the arrest of unlicensed harvesters, and those committing other illegal acts and would make a $2,000 fine mandatory for those convicted,” Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher said in the release. “The incredible amount of money in this fishery warrants a more stringent penalty because fines often don’t amount to one pound of elvers. For some who are illegally harvesting far more than that in a day, it does not deter them from continuing to break the law. A lack of sufficient penalty for violating elver harvesting laws puts the resource at risk.”
Maine Game Warden Mark Merrifield from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife also supported the investigation and interrogation of Parker.
“This is an important case for the Marine Patrol and the Department of Marine Resources,” said marine patrol Col. Joseph Fessenden. “Through good detective work by the Marine Patrol and collaboration with another enforcement agency we were able to quickly and efficiently enforce a law intended to protect one of our most valuable natural resources.”
The marine patrol sold the confiscated elvers and will hold the money pending outcome of the case. Parker’s vehicle, a 1996 Chevy 1500 with a U-Haul trailer, and equipment for storing and transporting live elvers were also seized. Parker is scheduled to appear in Newport District Court on May 29.
Maine’s elver season began on March 22 and runs until May 31. Elvers can be harvested every day of the week except from noon Saturday to noon Sunday and from noon Tuesday to noon Wednesday.