ELLSWORTH — With more than five weeks to go in the season, Maine’s elver fishery is on a pace to set a new record for value.
As of 6 p.m. Sunday, the Department of Marine Resources reported that dealers already had purchased just over 5,046 pounds of elvers and paid harvesters slightly more than $13 million, an average of $2,593 per pound. As of Saturday evening, the average was $2,600 per pound.
If the price holds in that range until the season ends on June 7 and fishermen catch the state’s entire 9,688-pound landings quota, the value of this year’s elver harvest would top $25 million. That would more than double last year’s value, $12.1 million, and would be the third highest ever.
In 2012, harvesters landed 21,611 pounds of elvers worth almost $40.4 million. A year later, the catch reached 18,080 pounds and brought in $32.9 million.
After those two bonanza years, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission established a quota system for the elver fishery along the Atlantic Coast and set landing quotas for the two states in which the fishery is legal: Maine and South Carolina.
The commission set the Maine quota at 11,479 pounds in 2014 and reduced it to the current level a year later. South Carolina’s fishery is limited, with fewer than a dozen licensed harvesters fishing a single river.
As of Sunday evening, Maine harvesters licensed by the Department of Marine Resources had landed about 3,308 pounds from a total quota allocation of about 7,566 pounds.
Harvesters licensed by one of the state’s four federally recognized Indian tribes — the Aroostook Band of Micmac, the Houlton Band of Maliseet, the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Penobscot Nation — landed the balance under quota allocations determined by agreement among the tribes and the Legislature.
As of Sunday night, harvesters from the Passamaquoddy Tribe reported landings of just under 1,408 pounds, almost 52 pounds more than its overall quota of about 1,356 pounds. The fishery is now closed to Passamaquoddy harvesters, and the overage, roughly 52 pounds, will be deducted from the tribe’s quota next year.