AUGUSTA — Lawmakers took initial steps Monday to close what Maine officials described as the last major loophole in monitoring an elver fishery that included as much as $20 million in black market sales of baby eels in 2012.

Under a proposal unanimously endorsed by a legislative committee, Maine would begin licensing the companies or individuals exporting elvers – also known as glass eels – which can fetch hundreds or thousands of dollars a pound. The exporters would be required to use the same real-time monitoring and reporting system that has been widely credited with curtailing illegal activity among elver fishermen and dealers.

"What we are really talking about is creating a bulletproof chain of custody" for elvers caught in Maine and shipped overseas, said Patrick Keliher, commissioner of the Department of Marine Resources, which requested the legislation.

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