AUGUSTA — Patrick Keliher, commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources, announced adoption of an emergency rule on Wednesday to prevent the overharvest of Maine’s elver fishery.
The move may also ensure that the actions of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point will not jeopardize Maine’s compliance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s American Eel Plan.
The emergency rule, which will take effect Friday, prohibits the use of fyke nets, other than those used by licensed harvesters in the commercial elver fishery and subject to daily reporting requirements to monitor catch in real time. Daily landings reports are required by the state and the ASMFC’s most recent fishery management plan addendum.
“The Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point has decided to change harvest plans in the middle of the season, as the tribe has done in previous years, Keliher said. “Chief Fred Moore, in a conversation with Marine Patrol, has admitted that the tribe plans to ship the eels harvested by sustenance fishermen out of the country, a clear violation of Maine sustenance laws.”
“Fyke nets, which catch significantly more elvers than a dip net, may result in much greater unreported catch and could cause the state to exceed its total allowable catch if utilized outside the scope of the daily reporting requirement in the commercial fishery,” Keliher said in a statement.
DMR acted based on information from the tribe that it has issued sustenance licenses that authorized the use of a fyke net.
“Chief Moore has spelled out a plan that not only jeopardizes Maine’s compliance with ASMFC but also violates state law,” Keliher said.
According to DMR, the tribe lacks a mechanism to accurately track and report the landings of sustenance license holders to the department and is putting this fishery at risk by using a gear that could significantly increase the take of elvers and cause the state to exceed the landings quota set by the ASMFC.
“The department is concerned that these licenses will cause the overall state quota to be exceeded, and negatively impact the elver resource,” Keliher said. “By harvesting elvers in excess of the established quota, there is potential for unusual damage to the American eel resource.”
“Let me be clear,” the commissioner said, “when elvers are valued at $2,000 per pound they are not being caught for sustenance, they are being caught and sold.”