NORFOLK, Va. — Interstate fisheries regulators voted last week to approve Maine’s elver landings quota for another year.
Meeting in Norfolk, Va., on Oct. 17, the American Eel Board of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission authorized Maine harvesters to land up to 9,688 pounds of elvers during the upcoming 2018 fishing season. That is the same quota the fishery has operated under for the past three years.
They also initiated an addendum to consider alternative allocations, management triggers and coastwide caps relative to the current management program for both the yellow and glass eel commercial fisheries starting with the 2019 fishing season.
Back in 2014, for the first time, the ASMFC established a quota for Maine’s glass eel (elver) landings. The quota governed the 2015 through 2017 fishing seasons. The regulators agreed to review that quota allocation before the 2018 season.
According to preliminary figures compiled by the Department of Marine Resources after the 2017 season closed on June 7, Maine dealers reported buying just over 9,282 pounds of elvers, worth $12,089,766, from Maine harvesters — an average of about $1,302 per pound.
Of that quantity, about 7,316 pounds were landed by harvesters licensed directly by the DMR.
The balance was landed by harvesters licensed by the state’s four federally recognized Indian tribes — the Houlton Band of Maliseet, the Aroostook Band of Micmac, the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Penobscot Nation.
Along the Atlantic coast, the elver fishery is prohibited in all states except Maine and South Carolina, and Maine is the only state with a significant glass eel harvest.
In 2013, the last year before the quota was established, Maine harvesters landed 18,080 pounds of elvers valued at more than $32.9 million. A year earlier, landings totaled 21,611 pounds worth almost $40.4 million.
The highest total landings of all life stages of the American eel occurred from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s. The value of U.S. commercial American eel landings has varied from a few hundred thousand dollars (prior to the 1980s) to a peak of $40.6 million in 2012 (largely driven by the price of glass eels).
The 2012 benchmark stock assessment found the resource depleted, and Addenda III (2013) and IV (2014) were approved with the goal of reducing mortality across all life stages.
These addenda established a 9-inch minimum size limit for commercial and recreational fisheries, a yellow eel commercial coastwide cap of 907,671 pounds, and glass eel quota of 9,688 pounds for Maine beginning for the 2015 fishing year.
The yellow eel cap has two management triggers: (1) the coastwide cap is exceeded by more than 10 percent in a given year and (2) the coastwide cap is exceeded for two consecutive years, regardless of the percent over. If either trigger is met, there is an automatic implementation of state-by-state quotas. The 2015 yellow eel landings were below the cap. However, 2016 landings were 925,798 pounds, which exceeded the cap by less than 10 percent.
A more detailed overview of the American eel stock assessment is available on the commission website. It was developed to aid media and interested stakeholders in better understanding the results. The assessment update will be available on the commission website on the American Eel webpage the week of Oct. 23.
For more information on the stock assessment update, contact Kristen Anstead at [email protected]. For more on American eel management, contact Kirby Rootes-Murdy, senior fishery management coordinator, at [email protected]