PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Regulators on Wednesday put off placing an annual catch limit on Maine’s lucrative glass eel fishery.
At a meeting in Alexandria, Va., the American eel management board of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission directed a plan development team to come up with a new regulatory proposal — which will likely include quotas — for the baby eels known as elvers.
The board will review the proposal in October and send it out for public hearing before giving it final approval next winter or spring, said Terry Stockwell, director of external affairs for the Maine Department of Marine Resources who serves as chairman of the eel board.
New regulations, including an annual catch limit, might or might not be in place for the start of Maine’s elver-fishing season next spring, he said.
The regulatory debate over eels has been closely watched by Maine fishermen who catch the tiny eels in nets as they swim up coastal rivers each spring and by dealers who sell the creatures to fish farms in Asia, where they are grown to market size.
Catch prices the past two seasons spiked to $2,000 a pound.
Regulators have been developing new regulations for glass, yellow and silver eels, which are all the same eel but at different life stages.
The eel management board is made of members from all East Coast states from Maine to Florida. Only Maine and South Carolina have commercial glass eel fisheries, but Maine’s annual harvest is about 15 times larger.
The board passed new regulatory measures for yellow and silver eels on Wednesday, but pushed back making substantive regulatory changes for elvers until a new overarching plan can be developed.