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Michael Souza

Eel Poaching A Problem

By April 10, 2012

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    Maine gets eelmania
elver
    Thanks to the need in Asia - see the last story on razor clams - juvenile eels are the most profitable fishery per pound in the state of Maine. The price per pound has skyrocketed to the point where the current price is $2,000.
    Those prices are also creating an incentive for poaching, so much so, that a bill approved by the state House of Representatives is to curb illegal "elver" fishing, allowing only a few fishermen to fish for them legally. Maine's elver bill has been enacted in the house, and awaits final enactment in the senate.
    The bill would increase fines up to $5,000, and if a licensed elver fisherman is caught violating rules their license can be suspended. The bill also allows new elver fishermen to get licensed, but only if one becomes available when a current license holder drops out. The bill does a good job of allowing the fishery to continue, while limiting its take.
    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering to list eels as threatened.
    In Asia, juvenile eels are raised for the seafood industry. Europe was once a supplier but is closed due to overfishing. That leaves just a few areas remaining; in the U.S., Maine and South Carolina are the only two elver fisheries in the country.
    In Maine, poaching has become such a problem in the past two years that during elver season, patrol officers spend almost all their time looking for poachers.

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