ELLSWORTH — The elver season is set to open Monday, March 22, and continue until June 7, unless the state’s harvesters reach their quotas before then.
Those quotas will remain unchanged for individuals this season, according to recent rulemaking from the Maine Department of Marine Resources. Fishermen who held licenses in 2020 will have the same allocation this year as they did last, plus any quota associated with licenses that were not renewed or were suspended beyond which is allocated to new license holders.
The rule also established a tending requirement for fishermen. The contents of fyke nets and Sheldon box traps must be removed at least once every 16 hours in order to reduce by-catch and elver mortality.
The 2020 season was postponed a week due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Guidelines established for that season will continue this spring.
“Specifically, licensed elver harvesters may again fish for and sell the quota of another licensed harvester, provided they follow the necessary protocols,” according to a notice to industry members.
A license holder who is fishing on behalf of another license holder must have that person’s license and swipe card in their possession while harvesting.
Harvesters are to maintain 6-foot distancing while fishing and selling and are urged to “spread out fishing effort on the rivers to the greatest degree possible and fish as close to home as practical.”
To minimize frequent small transactions, elver dealers are to limit purchases to 1 pound or more at a time. Fishermen are asked to plan accordingly.
According to preliminary totals at the end of last season, Maine elver dealers reported buying a total of just over 9,650 pounds with a value of $5,067,522. The average price per pound was $525.
In the 2015, 2018 and 2019 elver seasons, the average price per pound topped $2,000.
Virtually all elvers caught in Maine are exported to Asia, primarily China, where the juvenile eels are raised in ponds to adult market size.