Tracking fisheries

The Department of Marine Resources deserves a tip of the cap for its successful implementation of a magnetic swipe card system to manage the state’s multimillion-dollar elver fishery.

By the time the 11-week fishing season closed last Wednesday, dealers had reported to the DMR purchases of just over 9,282 pounds of the tiny juvenile eels from Maine harvesters this year worth slightly more than $12 million. Each transaction throughout the season was recorded using a magnetic swipe card, first issued to harvesters in 2014 and similar to a credit or debit card, which allowed the DMR to track the elver fishery on a daily basis and monitor compliance with a landings quota mandated by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the state’s individual fishing quota system.

According to the DMR, since the swipe card system was introduced, violations related to illegal elver fishing or possession declined from 220 in 2013, before swipe cards were introduced, to just 18 in 2014 – a 92 percent decrease, while the number of licenses issued increased from 1,005 to 1,018.

That’s good fisheries management by any measure.

Last year, the DMR introduced swipe cards in the state’s sea urchin fishery. The expectation is that, just as they have in the elver fishery, swipe cards will give the DMR more timely and accurate harvest data with which to manage another resource.

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