Baby eel lottery is a go in Maine, where elver fishing pays

  • Jul. 14, 2017 10:00 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine is implementing a new lottery system for licenses to fish for baby eels, which are worth more than $1,000 per pound on the worldwide sushi market.

Baby eels, called elvers, are a major fishery in Maine, where fishermen sell them to dealers so they can be sent to Asian aquaculture companies to be raised to maturity and used as food. But industry members and lawmakers have said the fishery needs a way to bring new people into the business because many elver fishermen are nearing retirement and there is no way to get a license.

The Legislature approved a permit lottery system last month. The law will likely be in effect by late October, said Rep. Jeffrey Pierce, a Dresden Republican who serves as a consultant to the elver industry. The law states that the first lottery could be held next year on or before Feb. 15.

“At some point you have to ask: How low do you want your license numbers to go?” Pierce said. “They don’t have to hold a lottery every year, but they do have the ability if they want to.”

The Maine elver fishery has about 425 fishermen, and the average age is older than 50. The elver fishing season take places every spring and is limited to a strict quota of less than 10,000 pounds for the entire state.

Maine elver fishermen fell about 300 pounds short of their quota this year, preliminary state records show. The average price per pound was more than $1,300, making elvers by far the most valuable fishery on a per-pound basis.

The value of the fishery is a good reason to get younger fishermen involved and preserve its future, said Darrell Young, the co-director of the Maine Elver Fishermen’s Association.

“Hopefully this will attract some young kids,” he said.

Money from the $35 lottery application fee will be set aside to fund a study of the eel life cycle.

Maine and South Carolina are the only U.S. states with fisheries for baby eels. Maine’s fishery is much larger, and the elvers have been especially valuable in recent years because foreign sources have dried up.

Patrick Whittle, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Driver crashes into Red Deer business while fleeing police

A car smashed through a Red Deer business’ front window while fleeing… Continue reading

Police informer talks about his role in Castor undercover sting

Jason Klaus and Joshua Frank were convicted of triple murders last month

City of Red Deer invites residents to Let’s Talk

Interactive public forum to be held April 7

Lessons in altruism learned by Red Deer students

St. Francis of Assisi School launches community foundation project

Sylvan Lake council approves fire pits and mobile stage

Large fire pits for group gatherings will be located on pier next winter

Sutter Fund Chiefs ready to host Midget AAA Female Provincials

The second half of the season did not go as planned for… Continue reading

Wickenheiser says strengthening Olympic hockey bridge behind North Korea trip

CALGARY — Hayley Wickenheiser was conflicted about the unified Korean women’s hockey… Continue reading

Watch: Volcanic thunder is real, and this is what it sounds like

Behold, the rumble of volcanic thunder. No, this is not the sound… Continue reading

Cosmetics giant L’Oreal buys Toronto augmented reality startup ModiFace

TORONTO — When University of Toronto engineering professor Parham Aarabi first began… Continue reading

Report: ESPN president resigned over cocaine extortion plot

LOS ANGELES — The former president of ESPN said he resigned from… Continue reading

Conductor Levine, ousted after sex abuse inquiry, sues Met

NEW YORK — Conductor James Levine sued the Metropolitan Opera on Thursday… Continue reading

Five things about ‘Fortnite,’ the video game Drake shared with his fans

Drake’s a fan, as is Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews, along… Continue reading

Former Devils forward Kovalchuk aiming for NHL return after five years away

MOSCOW — Former NHL forward Ilya Kovalchuk says he wants to return… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month