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June 8, 2018

Elver fishermen push for higher quota, say resource isn’t endangered

Photo / David Clough
Photo / David Clough
Elver fishermen in Maine continue to support an increase in Maine's annual catch limit, saying the resource isn't showing any signs of diminishment under current quotas.

Despite the abrupt end to the elver season last month due to poaching, elver fishermen continue to support an increase in Maine's annual catch limit.

The Bangor Daily News reported that more than 60 elver fishermen appeared at a hearing held Wednesday by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission — the interstate body that oversees the eel and elver fishery, among others — to consider whether to raise the quota from 9,688 pounds to 11,749 pounds.

"We're hearing from [harvesters in] the field that this population is not in trouble at all," John Banks, director of natural resources for the Penobscot Indian Nation, said during the hearing. But Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher said the poaching incidents "didn't help" the argument in favor of increasing Maine's quota. Keliher didn't say how dealers allegedly got around a swipe-card system intended to track landings, but said the state could potentially implement additional measures to reduce poaching.

Quota stable for past three years

According to a DMR news release in May, the value and weight of the illegally harvested and sold elvers were not recorded with the swipe card system and not accounted for in the DMR's quota management system.

An investigation by the Maine Marine Patrol revealed that some Maine elver dealers pad a cash amount that was substantially less than the per pound price for elvers that were harvested and accounted for through the state's swipe card system.

The closure was done through emergency rulemaking, with DMR stating the illegal sales jeopardize its ability to manage the fishery.

The ASMFC established a quota for the fishery for the first time in 2014. The 2018 quota was the same it had been for the previous three years.

Considerations of increasing the quota are part of the ASFMC's Draft Addendum V to the American Eel Fishery Management Plan.

According to an item in the ASMFC's June newsletter, the investigation of poaching by the Maine Marine Patrol is ongoing. The swipe card system records the weight and value of each sale, allowing the state to ensure that harvesting does not exceed individual and overall state quotas.

The state's overall quota is set by the ASMFC and individual quotas that add up to the overall quota are established by the state. The value and weight of the illegally harvested and sold elvers were not recorded with the swipe card system and not accounted for in the DMR's quota management system.

The swipe card system was established in 2014 to allow DMR to obtain accurate, timely information on the amount of elvers landed and sold in Maine, and has been key in the state's ability to comply with the overall quota requirement.

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