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November 15, 2017

State holding lottery for its most lucrative per-pound fishery

FILE PHOTO / DAVID CLOUGH
FILE PHOTO / DAVID CLOUGH
Patricia and Paul Bryant, involved in the elver fishery since the 1970s, tend their nets during a dawn trip to favorable river spots in Bristol in this Mainebiz file photo. This year, Maine elver harvesters caught 9,282 pounds of baby eels this season, with a reported value of $12.09 million.

Starting Nov. 15, the Department of Marine Resources will be implementing a lottery for the state's lucrative elver fishery, to allow at least seven new licenses to be issued for the 2018 season, which starts March 22, 2018.

In a press release, the DMR said the lottery was authorized during the past legislative session. Maine residents must be at least age 15 by the start of the 2018 season to participate in the lottery. Each new license holder will receive a minimum quota of four pounds of elvers, which at the most recent season's average value could amount to nearly $6,000 of income.

"Maine's elver fishery is by far the most valuable on a per-pound basis," DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher said. "We're pleased to be able to provide new opportunity for commercial fishing in Maine, or perhaps a chance for an existing fisherman to diversify into another fishery."

The cap on licenses was established at 425, seven more than are currently eligible for renewal in 2018. If additional current license-holders choose not to renew their license by the end of the year, more licenses will be available through the lottery.

The DMR last held a lottery for elver licenses in 2013. The Legislature suspended further lotteries because of the overall state quota established by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which reduced the amount available for licensed harvesters.

The overall quota has been at 9,688 pounds for the past three seasons and will remain at that level for the 2018 season, according to a press release from the ASMFC.

The 2017 season closed with landings of 9,282 pounds worth $12 million, and an average price per pound of $1,302. In 2016, harvesters were paid an average price of $1,431 per pound.

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