An interstate fisheries board has decided to ask for public comment on a proposal that could boost Maine’s annual elver quota by 18 percent.
The American eel management board of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission met Tuesday to consider a draft amendment to its eel management plan, which includes the option of increasing Maine’s yearly harvest limit for elvers, or baby eels, to 11,479 pounds.
That limit, which was the statewide catch limit in 2014, would be roughly 1,800 pounds more than the current statewide quota of 9,688 pounds.
The commission is expected to consider whether to approve a quota increase at its meeting in May, after it gets feedback from the public on the proposal, according to Kirby Rootes-Murdy, senior fishery management plan coordinator for the commission. He said the commission has not yet scheduled any public hearings on the proposed changes, but would hold them sometime in March, before the public comment period closes at the end of that month.
“Whatever is approved in Maine by the commission will go into effect in 2019,” Rootes-Murdy said.
Maine’s 2018 elver season is expected to begin in about six weeks.
Since 2012, Maine fishermen on average have earned roughly $1,500 per pound for baby eels, also known as elvers. If Maine’s annual elver harvest limit is increased by 1,800 pounds, it could mean an additional $2.6 million in revenue for Maine fishermen, which would be a 21 percent increase over the 2017 harvest value of $12 million.
Prior to 2014, Maine had no annual limit on the number of baby eels fishermen could harvest. The interstate fisheries commission imposed a yearly catch limit of 11,479 pounds after Maine had extraordinarily large harvests of 21,000 pounds in 2012 and 18,000 pounds in 2013.
After Maine elver fishermen caught only 9,690 pounds of elvers in 2014, despite the higher limit, the commission reduced the quota to 9,688 pounds.
About 2,000 baby eels comprise a pound.
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