News Feature

Augusta
Web exclusive, May 24, 2018
DMR shuts down elver fishery over illegal sales
‘The future of this fishery is now in question’

by Anne Berleant

Elver fishing is over in Maine as of 6 a.m. today, May 24, after the Maine Department of Marine Resources enacted an emergency rule citing illegal sales. The closure came in a last-minute announcement May 23 from the DMR, and closes the highly lucrative fishery two weeks early.

“This is a fishery that stood to net Maine license holders nearly $24 million this year, and now because of the greed of some dealers and harvesters, I am obligated to cut that opportunity short,” said DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher.

Sales and possession of elvers by fishermen are allowed through noon on May 24, according to the rule, with dealers allowed to purchase the fish through noon May 24 and possess the fish through 6 a.m. May 29.

Illegal sales of elvers jeopardize the Department’s ability to manage the fishery, according to a press release.

Charges are pending from an ongoing investigation into illegal sales and will be filed against dealers and harvesters who bought and sold elvers without using the state’s swipe system. The swipe system, established in 2014, records the weight and value of each sale, allowing the DMR to ensure that harvesting does not exceed individual quotas, set by the DMR, and the state quota, set by the Atlantic Sates Marine Fisheries Commission.

According to the press release, as of May 22, 9,090 pounds of the state’s 9,688-pound quota had been sold legally, using the swipe card system.

“We believe that if the illegal sales had been recorded, the 2018 elver quota would have already been exceeded,” said Commissioner Keliher. “For this reason, an immediate closure of the fishery, done through emergency rulemaking, is necessary to prevent depletion of the elver resource, caused by exceeding the 2018 elver fishing quota.”

The elver fishing season opened March 22 with $2,608 per pound as the early average price per pound, a new high for the fishery that has remained fairly static throughout the now shortened season.