BAR HARBOR — The late ice-out on many waterways has some fishermen here wondering whether glass eels, or elvers, will run this year before the season ends on May 31. When the larval eels ride ocean currents back to the Americas from the spawning ground in the Sargasso Sea, they tend to arrive all at once.
With warmer weather in the second week of April, landings were up, said Jeff Nichols of the Department of Marine Resources (DMR), but the early part of the season was very slow. After the season opened March 22, not much activity was reported until this week.
Advertised prices in Ellsworth were $1,850 per pound, near the average price in the boom years of 2012 and 2013. In 2014, the average price dropped to $874.52. Landings were down last year, too, as the Maine fishery held to quotas set by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) and allocated by the DMR to license holders and tribes.
Last week, the state legislature’s Marine Resources Committee voted “ought to pass” on a bill to create an elver exporter’s license, which regulators say would close a loophole in their ability to monitor the controversial fishery. Because Maine and South Carolina are the only states where commercial elver fishing is legal, Maine regulators and law enforcement must be able to prove that elvers sold here were caught here.
Under current rules, elver harvesters and dealers must participate in an electronic swipe card system that allows the DMR to keep close track of landings and individual quotas. Exporters shipping the product to Asian markets are not yet part of that system. The DMR requested a bill to change that. LD 1027 was presented by Representative Walter Kumiega (D-Deer Isle), house chair of the committee. Kumiega also sits on the Eel Board of the ASMFC.