Maine’s lucrative baby eel industry will likely face tighter controls this year designed to thwart poaching, as officials consider requiring state law enforcement officers to oversee the packing and shipping of the valuable fish.
Baby eels, called elvers, are an important part of the worldwide supply chain for Japanese food. Maine fishermen harvest them from rivers and streams every spring, and they are typically worth more than $1,000 per pound. No other U.S. state has a significant elver fishery.
But poaching has dogged the industry. Last year’s season was shut down by state regulators two weeks early after investigators unearthed concerns about illegal sales.
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