AUGUSTA — A bill to give the Maine Department of Marine Resources flexibility in open elver fishing days will come before the legislature this session, House Marine Resources Chairman Rep. Walter Kumiega (D-Deer Isle) said.
“The fishery has to be closed for 48 hours per week,” he said. “And in any given week, two or three other days when there’s no harvest because of the tide cycle. Last season, many weeks had only two or three nights where [harvesters] were able to catch any elvers. That really contributed to lower landings.”
Elver fishermen are constrained by rules, weather and the tide, Kumiega said. “We can’t control the weather or the tide, but we might be able to put some flexibility into the rules.”
Lining up the closed days with days there’s not a favorable tide would help fishermen.
The 48-hour closure rule is less important for protecting the resource than it used to be, he said, because now there’s also a quota for the Maine fishery each season. Quotas are set by the American Eel Board of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
“It’s probably better to have the quota caught faster,” Kumiega said. “Once it’s closed, the elvers have a free run up the river.”
The elver quota for the 2016 season, which is set to begin in March, will be the same as 2015, he said.