AUGUSTA — The Maine elver fishery is shutting town two weeks early, at 6 a.m. on Thursday, May 24, the Maine Department of Marine Resources announced Wednesday.
An investigation by the Maine Marine Patrol revealed that some Maine elver dealers were paying a cash price that was substantially less than the per pound price for elvers that were harvested and accounted for through the state’s mandatory swipe card system, spokesman Jeff Nichols said. The investigation is ongoing and charges will be filed against the dealers and harvesters involved.
The swipe card system records the weight and value of each sale, allowing the state to ensure that harvesting does not exceed individual and overall state quotas.
“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.
As of May 22, 9,090.629 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,” Keliher said. “The future of this lucrative fishery is now in question. We clearly have to consider additional measures to ensure that Maine can remain compliant with Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, that we can continue to protect our state’s valuable marine resources, and that we can hold accountable anyone who chooses to squander the opportunity those resources represent.”
Under the regulation, licensed dealers may purchase elvers until noon on May 24, and may possess legally purchased elvers until 6 a.m. on Tuesday, May 29.