ELLSWORTH — Maine’s elver dealers will likely face stricter rules on where and how they do business when the 2019 fishing season gets underway.
The fishing season for elvers opens March 22 and usually extends through June 7.
Last year, though, the state closed the season two weeks early, on May 24. As a result of the early closure, elver landings were nearly 500 pounds lower than the legal quota of 9,688 pounds.
The early shutdown was imposed by Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher because of a spate of illegal, unrecorded sales by people Keliher described as “some very greedy fishermen who didn’t think $3,000 a pound was enough money.”
Next week, DMR will hold two public hearings on some proposed rules that will make it much tougher for dealers, and harvesters, to evade sales controls.
The first rule would make it illegal for more than one licensed elver dealer to do business in the same “fixed premises,” usually a barn, garage or other building.
A second new rule would require anyone planning to send elvers out of state — as of now virtually all elvers landed in Maine are exported to the Far East — to give the Marine Patrol at least two days advance notice of a shipment.
A Marine Patrol officer would then have to inspect, weigh and seal each package of elvers before it was shipped. Any seal that showed evidence of tampering would be prima facie evidence of an illegal shipment that could be confiscated by the state.
The proposed regulation also makes explicit the requirements that harvesters and dealers must not only possess individual DMR-issued magnetic “swipe cards” but that they actually use them to record each purchase transaction and that dealers must provide all of the information required by DMR’s electronic reporting system.
The first hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 28, at Jeff’s Catering in Brewer. A second hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 29, at DMR headquarters in Augusta. If a “snow date” for the hearing is required it will be 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 30, at DMR headquarters.