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December 2, 2016

Eel farming could be next aquaculture boom

A small eel farm is under way in South Bristol, raising elvers so they can be sold live and fully grown to local restaurants.

The Associated Press reported that farm operator Sara Rademaker, who launched American Unagi in 2014, sold her first eels to Maine sushi restaurants this summer. She is hoping to scale up production in the coming years, the AP reported.

That could be a big change to the current scenario, which sees Maine landings of lucrative elvers shipped to aquaculture facilities in Asia, where they're grown to adult size, then processed for an ever-increasing food market.

Maine is the heart of the East Coast elver fishery — one of only two states allowed to harvest the tiny creatures (the other is South Carolina). In recent years, elver harvesters have earned anywhere from $900 to $2,600 per pound, thanks to demand in Asia.

There's a growing movement for domestic eel farming. At the University of New England in Biddeford, Barry Costa-Pierce is director of the Marine Science Program and a member of the regional Eel Aquaculture Team. In 2015, he told Mainebiz the prospects for Maine eel farms are excellent.

"We have the seed stock, the knowledge, the land, water, and labor, and the feeds are available," Costa-Pierce said. "The market is there, that's for sure."

Read more

A wild fishery tamed: Maine elvers are in demand in Asia, but quotas limit catch

Longer elver season to maximize harvest

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