Massachusetts resident Joseph Starratt, 51, was arrested Friday in Scarborough, Maine, and charged with illegal possession of 16.5 pounds of elvers.
Maine Marine Patrol officers followed a lead submitted through the Operation Game Thief tip line to track down Starratt, of Middleborough, Mass., and his allegedly black-market-bound glass eels.
Each pound of elvers contains about 2,500 baby eels and is worth about $1,300, making his haul worth almost $22,000. The charge is a Class D misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.
“Elvers are, pound for pound, by far the most valuable marine resource in Maine,” said Greg Sirpis, Operation Game Thief board chairman. “Maine has done a great job of managing this resource and minimizing illegal activity in the fishery. But this case shows that the big bucks associated with this fishery will still tempt some to violate the law.”
As of Monday, May 8, Maine dealers have reported buying nearly 8,000 pounds of elvers with a reported value of $10.46 million since the elver season began March 22. The 2017 season will end when the statewide harvest reaches the 9,616-pound limit established by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
The tip line is available at maineogt.org or (800) 253-7887.