Nine Mainers win a new elver license out of over 3,600 applicants

Published on
March 4, 2020

The Maine Department of Marine Resources announced that it has officially awarded nine elver licenses that were available to eligible residents of the state, out of more than 3,600 applicants to the license.

The massive number of applicants is likely thanks to high price that elvers – the juvenile form of eels – has commanded in recent years. Last year, the season starting on 22 March kicked off with values of over USD 2,500 (EUR 2,237) per pound, with the season-long average sitting at USD 2,000 (EUR 1,790) per pound.

"Maine's elver fishery provides significant opportunity for harvesters who last year earned over [USD] 20 million [EUR 17.8 million]" said Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher. “I'm pleased we can provide this opportunity for a new group of Mainers."

The nine licenses that were up for acquisition was the result of nine licenses that weren’t renewed in 2018 and 2019. All told, the state has 425 state-issued licenses available. Each new license holder gets access to a minimum of four-pounds of quota, and can choose to use either a dip net or a fyke net for harvesting.

Each applicant in the lottery can apply up to five times per-person, at a cost of USD 35.00 (EUR 31.32) per application. The majority of the funds goes toward the state’s Eel and Elver Management Fund, used to support research, management, administration, and enforcement of Maine’s eel and elver fisheries. All told, 9,967 applications were filed out of 3,621 individual applicants.

The lottery was established in 2017 in the wake of a huge spike in the value of the small eels in 2013, which drove up demand for the exponentially. That sudden spike left the state scrambling to create regulations to sustainably manage the fishery.

Since then, new electronic swipe cards have been implemented to keep more careful track of the amount of quota left to the state’s fishermen. The state also hasn’t been shy about shutting down the fishery if it discovers any indication that the quota might be exceeded.

This year, the quota remains at 9,688 pounds. The season begins on 22 March, running until 7 June. 

Photo by Cliff White/SeafoodSource

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