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June 22, 2021

A lesser-known Maine fishery tallies $1,849 a pound for recent season

File photo / David Clough Tiny elvers, which are used to grow market-size eels, remain one of Maine’s most valuable species.

Lobster may be Maine’s best-known fishery, but it’s the baby eels that are getting the attention right now.

The tiny elvers, as the eels are known, fetched a price of $1,849 a pound for the season that ended June 7, according to the Department of Marine Resources. 

While the price might seem staggering, it's actually not the record. The price per pound peaked in 2018, at $2,366, according to DMR data. Last year, the price plummeted to $525 a pound.

The value of the overall catch peaked in 2012, at $40.4 million, but that was before the current quota was instituted and the haul was more than double what's allowed today, at 21,600 pounds. 

Elvers are mainly sold and exported to Asia, where they're grown into eels that can be sold to restaurants and other buyers. 

Maine harvesters caught nearly 8,960 pounds of the elusive eels, falling short of the yearly quota, according to DMR’s preliminary data. At the per-pound price, that would be an overall value of $16.57 million. 

Harvesters licensed by DMR reported 6,802 pounds caught, falling short of the quota of 7,566 pounds.

Other authorized harvesters are the Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribes, which each have individual quotas. 

The elver season went from March 22 to June 7. The elvers are caught with hand-dip nets, fyke nets or Sheldon steel traps.

Maine Public has a good story about why Maine is the only significant fishery for elvers. 

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