Maine marine resources officials say the state’s elver season is getting off to a slow start, with only small numbers of the tiny eels being netted by harvesters. The quality and quantity of the juvenile eels is expected to improve as temperatures climb in April.
Maine’s elver season opened on March 22, but the fishing has been poor, according to state Department of Marine Resources spokesman Jeff Nichols, who says colder-than-normal temperatures have kept landings down.
“Things are pretty slow, I mean this has been a very cold spring and we’ve got more snow on the way, which suggests that water temperature is probably going to remain pretty cold, but we do anticipate with warming waters that the migration is going to happen, the elvers are going to show up and things will pick up,” he says. “But at this point what we’re hearing is that things are pretty slow.”
During banner demand years, the baby eels have been gobbled up by the Asian market to drive prices above $2,000 per pound. According to the state Department of Marine Resources, last year nearly 1,000 fishermen landed more than 9,300 pounds of elvers, also known as glass eels, that were valued at more than $13 million.
Nichols says the industry expects average values similar to last year, when the eels were selling for a little more than $1,400 per pound. Maine is restricted to an annual eel harvest quota of just under 9,700 pounds.