New law shakes up elver fishery

An emergency bill outlawing cash transactions between elver harvesters and elver buyers went into effect Tuesday.

ELLSWORTH — The bell began to toll earlier this week for a wild west aspect of the state’s elver fishery.

On April 10, the Legislature passed LD 632, an emergency bill that outlawed cash transactions between elver harvesters and elver buyers and criminalized most violations of the elver fishing laws. The law went into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday.

Reaction to the no-cash rule among dealers and harvesters was mostly positive.

Earlier this month, dealers were paying harvesters as much as $2,000 a pound for elvers. Virtually all of those transactions were completed in cash, many of them at night in the remote parking areas where elver dealers frequently do business.

With elver landings steady, if not as large as at this time last year, a lot of cash has been on the street. Last week, one elver dealer said that he had withdrawn $400,000 from his bank on Thursday to pay elver harvesters and would probably withdraw as much again on Friday.

He was prepared for the change in business practices, though. On his desk was a thick, brand new checkbook.

Bill Quinby, an elver buyer from Prospect Harbor, said he thought the switch from cash to checks was “quite workable,” though some of the fishermen he dealt with “like more privacy from Uncle Sam.”

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Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]