The Maine Marine Patrol charged Dale A. Boyington of Rockland with illegal possession of elvers last week. Boyington was allegedy caught with 11 pounds of elvers with an estimated value of $22,100. Boyington is scheduled to appear in Biddeford District Court on 5 June. The elver fishery is one of three distinct fisheries for American eels (Anguilla rostrata) in Maine. Elvers, also called glass eels, are young American eels that return to rivers from their ocean spawning grounds. Elvers, based on intense market demand, have become the most valuable marine resource in Maine in terms of price per pound (between $25 to $350). Last year the elver fishery was Maine’s second most valuable fishery behind lobster.
Illegally possessing elvers in Maine is a civil crime with a fine up to $2,000. Bill LD 632 (An Act To Improve Enforcement Mechanisms to the Elver Industry and To Make Technical Changes to Maine’s Marine Resources Laws), a bill which recently passed both the Maine House of Representatives and the Maine Senate with an emergency provision, would criminalize elver fishing violations. The Governor is expected to sign the Bill into law soon. With the new law in place, violators may now be guilty of a Class D crime and may serve jail time. LD 632 also requires courts to impose the maximum $2,000 fine for those Class D crimes.
“This new law will provide a greater deterrent to those who are motivated by the large sums of money that can be made in this fishery,” says Patrick Keliher, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR). “When an unlicensed person can make tens of thousands of dollars in one night and only faces a fine that amounts to a fraction of that, the deterrent is not there. This new law will change that.”
In early April, another man was apprehended for the largest case of illegal possession of elvers in the history of the fishery.