AUGUSTA — Want to get rich quick, or at least have a chance to earn a nice piece of change?
Last Thursday, the Department of Marine Resources opened a lottery that will give nine lucky winners the chance to apply for elver fishing licenses for the upcoming season. The lottery runs until 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 21. The 10-week elver season starts March 22 and runs through June 7.
An elver fishing license isn’t worth its weight in gold. It’s worth a lot more.
In 2018, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission set a total landings quota for Maine elver harvesters of 9,688 pounds. Of that, just under 2,070 pounds are allocated among Maine’s four federally recognized tribes, which issue their own fishing licenses to tribal members. DMR allocates the balance, some 7,566 pounds, among harvesters licensed by the state.
Last year, Maine ’s elver fishermen landed just over 9,605 pounds of the tiny juvenile eels, for which dealers reported paying $20,109,248, according to preliminary figures released by DMR. That’s about $2,093 per pound.
Landings quotas vary based primarily on landings history, with some harvesters holding quotas of as much as 100 pounds. If the price holds this year, a harvester such as a lottery winner, with even the minimum authorized landings quota — 4 pounds — would take home better than $8,000 for a little more than two months of fishing.
The lottery was authorized by the Legislature in 2017. At the time it was established, the Legislature also capped the number of state-issued licenses at 425.
As is the case with other Maine commercial fishing licenses, license holders may renew their licenses annually by filing an renewal notice with DMR and paying the required fee unless the license has been suspended or revoked by a court or the department. The nine licenses available in the lottery equal the number of licenses that were not renewed in 2018 and 2019.
Participation in the lottery is open to Maine residents who are at least 15 years old by the start of the 2020 season, and who would be eligible to purchase an elver license in 2020 because their right to obtain an elver license has not been suspended.
Each individual is allowed to submit up to five applications with a fee of $35 each either online or in person at the department’s Augusta headquarters. Each online application will incur an additional $2 processing fee.
A portion of each application fee, $25, will be deposited in the DMR Eel and Elver Management Fund, which is used to research and manage the state’s eel and elver resources, enforce laws related to eels and elvers and to cover the costs associated with determining eligibility for elver fishing licenses.