Maine’s elver season saw drastically lower prices amid COVID-19

The U.S. state of Maine’s elver fishery, which last year was the second-most valuable fishery in the state, ended on 7 June with drastically lower prices for the year.

Preliminary data from the Maine Department of Marine Resources indicates fishermen managed to catch 9,650 pounds out of 9,688 available in the quota. That’s a positive result, considering the state temporarily closed the fishery at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March out of fears that the fishery wasn’t conducive to social-distancing requirements.

Despite the high catch totals, the total value of the fishery was down significantly: Preliminary estimates have the value at just over USD 5 million (EUR 4.4 million), a far cry from last year’s total of USD 20.1 million (EUR 17.7 million). That lower total was largely a result of a much lower average price for the small eels: A pound of elvers was on average fetching USD 525 (EUR 464), compared to the price last year topping USD 2,000 (EUR 1,771) per pound.

That lower price wasn’t a surprise to members of the Maine Elver Fishermen Association, which discussed the possibility back in before the season even started.

“We have gotten word that the price is not looking good,” the Maine Elver Fishermen’s Association wrote on its Facebook page in February as the COVID-19 outbreak was starting to cause issues.

Those lower prices are largely related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtually every elver is sold to buyers in Asia, who then typically raise the eels to adulthood via aquaculture operations. The adult eels are then sold as food, but with COVID-19 impacting restaurants across the world, demand for the species – and in turn prices – were much lower than usual. 

Photo courtesy of Nicolas Primola/Shutterstock


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