Predictably, now that elver season is well underway, the poaching has begun and the first fines for illegal fishing have been issued. With prices for a pound of live young eel expected to rise to $3000 over the next week or so, it’s no surprise that poaching fines are simply the cost of doing business. One man was caught with 41 pounds of live elvers, with an estimated value of $61,000.
A group of fisherman licensed to fish elvers have formed an advocacy group to protect the elvers and American eel from overfishing, but also from potential classification as an endangered and off-limit species. The Maine Elver Fishermen’s Association has proposed a ban on the fishing of eels in more adult stages to allow for more breeding potential, information that will undoubtedly upset recreational eel fishermen. Other sustainable management techniques, such as leaving the middle third of rivers net-free so more elvers can travel upstream, or laying in 24-hours pauses, are already practiced by licensed fishers.
To me, the first step would seem to be the one that is long overdue and which is the same step as always when it comes to wild resources: Figure out just what the actual status of the American eel population might be. We only seem to become truly interested in establishing baseline information once a given population draws our attention, and it’s been no different with the American eel.
Sun Journal article on elver poaching gangs