Maine's 2014 elver season a success

Jun 04, 2014

The 2014 elver season, which concluded May 31, was characterized by less than one tenth the number of poaching violations of last year.

“This season exceeded my expectations in terms of the performance of the new swipe card system and the outcome of the individual quota system,” said Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher in a news release.

“One of the main challenges for the department last season, as the value exceeded $2,000 per pound, was poaching, which contributed to a total of 219 violations in 2013 related to fishing without a license. This season, as a result of the new swipe card system and the individual fishing quotas which were intended to discourage illegal trafficking of elvers by unlicensed harvesters, the total number of violations related to fishing without a license has declined dramatically.”

To date, Maine Marine Patrol reports that have been entered into the DMR database show just 15 violations of laws associated with unlicensed harvesting. “This drastic decline in violations is strong testament to the success of the new system,” said Keliher.

“The new swipe card system and individual fishing quotas have dramatically reduced illegal activity in Maine, improved our capacity to manage this critically important marine resource, and reduced the enforcement burden on neighboring states.” Overall, violation of elver-related laws decreased from 371 last season to 71 this season.

Preliminary reports indicate that Maine harvesters landed approximately 86 percent of the total overall quota. These numbers are likely to increase as final landings reports are calculated. There are a number of factors the department is still assessing that possibly contributed to the shortfall. Potential factors include the cold weather that Maine experienced this spring which slowed the migration of elvers. Harvesting activity during the first week of the season was also slow, with the most participants on any single day totaling 33 out of the approximately 950 licensed harvesters. In addition, based on landings reports there were 887 active harvesters of which 371 reached their individual quotas.

“We will continue to assess all aspects of this season’s harvesting activity, regulatory and statutory changes, and enforcement efforts as we begin planning for next season,” said Keliher. “I am confident that the swipe card system, because it has proven to be such an effective management tool, will continue to be a part of this fishery and that we will be rolling it out into other fisheries in the future.

“I am also very pleased with the service of Bluefin Data, LLC, the vendor we chose for the swipe card system,” said Keliher. “Not only did the system work nearly flawlessly, they provided timely and expert technical support which was critical in managing a system like this.”

Plans for the future of the elver fishery in Maine will be discussed during two Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission public hearings Monday, June 30. The first will be from 10 a.m. to noon in the Natural Resources Service Center Conference Room at 6 Beech St. in Hallowell. The second will be from 3 to 5 p.m. at Jeff’s Catering and Event Center at 15 Littlefield Way in Brewer. For more information on the public hearings, visit maine.gov/dmr.

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