State to meet with fishermen about reducing elver catch

Glenn Bernard of Presque Isle fingers through his elver catch from the previous night to try and find eels small enough to sell in Brewer on Friday, May 31, 2013.
Carter F. McCall | BDN
Glenn Bernard of Presque Isle fingers through his elver catch from the previous night to try and find eels small enough to sell in Brewer on Friday, May 31, 2013. Buy Photo
Posted Nov. 26, 2013, at 3:46 p.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — State officials have scheduled two public meetings to get feedback from fishermen about how Maine should reduce its elver landings next spring.

In late October, the Atlantic State Marine Fisheries Commission decided Maine would have to reduce its annual elver landings between 25 and 40 percent next year. Maine Department of Marine Resources has indicated that Maine’s several hundred licensed elver fishermen caught 18,253 pounds of elvers during the annual 10-week season this past spring, which means the state would have to limit its 2014 harvest to between roughly 11,000 and 13,700 pounds.

The meetings have been set for 1-5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 9, at Jeff’s Catering on Littlefield Way in Brewer, and Wednesday, Dec. 11, at the Augusta Civic Center on Community Drive in Augusta.

Last week, DMR held two public hearings about another elver fishery measure, one in Yarmouth and another in Ellsworth, about a proposal to require licensed fishermen to use electronic swipe cards every time they sell their catch. More than a dozen people attended the Yarmouth meeting and nearly 60 attended the Ellsworth meeting, according to DMR officials.

DMR officials have said that a swipe-card sales system would allow them to keep better track of landings as they occur and make it harder for anyone to sell or buy poached elvers.

In recent years, Maine’s elver fishery has become the second-most lucrative in the state, behind Maine’s $340 million lobster fishery. Prices that elver fishermen in Maine have received for their catch have soared since 2011, at times exceeding $2,000 per pound. According to fishermen and dealers, prices this past spring settled around $1,500-$1,700 per pound.

Elvers, also known as glass eels, migrate each spring from the Atlantic Ocean into freshwater rivers, streams and lakes along the East Coast. Maine and South Carolina are the only two states that allow elver harvesting, with Maine netting the vast majority of the American catch. Most elvers are shipped to Asia, where they are raised to adult size for sale in the region’s seafood markets.

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