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Committee, Department of Marine Resources Support Elver License Lottery

A bill that would set a firm cap on the number of elver fishing licenses issued each year in Maine received broad support at a public hearing before the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee. The bill would also allow a small number of new fishermen into the fishery.

The elver, or baby eel, fishery is one of the most lucrative in Maine. Considered a delicacy in several Asian countries, elvers were fetching close to $2,000 dollars a pound last year. But because of the pressure on the resource, the fishery has been closed to new fishermen since 2013.

But Rep. Abden Simmons, a Republican from Waldoboro, says the number of elver fishermen has been declining as some retire and give up their coveted licenses.

“We continue to lose fishermen every year and we would like to sustain the number and continue to sustain that number, and set the Department to establish a lottery,” he says.

A bill under consideration by the Legislature and supported by the Department of Marine Resources would establish an annual lottery to ensure that there are just 425 licensed elver fishermen each season.

“This proposed legislation would offer the opportunity for at least six licenses and likely more for the 2018 season. Generally speaking, the department supports creating a mechanism to which individuals may become eligible to enter our fisheries,” says Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher.

The measure faces further committee consideration before going to the full Legislature.