Maine saw the value of its elver fishery jump back up to historic levels after a 2020 that was marred by closures and low prices caused by covid-19.

Preliminary data from the Maine Department of Marine Resources indicate that the value of the catch, which topped out at 8,960.97 pounds out of an available 9,620.70 pounds, is reported to be $16.56 million. The price came in at average of $1,849 per pound in 2021.

Elvers, also known as glass eels, have become the second most valuable fishery in the state in recent years, behind only lobster. However, 2020 saw the fishery plummet in value after covid-19 social-distancing restrictions closed the fishery, and a lack of demand from key markets caused the value to drop.

According to Maine DMR totals from 2020, despite dealers buying a total of 9,650 pounds out of 9,688 available, the fishery only earned $5 million at an average price-per-pound of $525.

The fishery typically sends its catch to markets in Asia that raise the baby eels to adulthood in aquaculture operations, but covid-19 related disruptions hit just as the season was scheduled to start on March 22, 2020.

The elver fishery has had a complicated few years. In 2018, the fishery was shut down early despite surpassing $21 million in value, at a record high price of more that $2,360 per pound due to illegal sales that led regulators to fear the species could be overfished.

New regulations and management strategies were put in place soon after, and the fishery had a successful 2019 – only to have a disrupted 2020 because of covid-19.

This article was originally published on SeafoodSource.com and is republished here with permission.

Chris Chase is the Portland, Maine-based associate editor of SeafoodSource. Previously, he worked covering local issues at the Coastal Journal in Bath, Maine, where he won multiple awards from the Maine Press Association for his news coverage and food reviews. Chris is a graduate of the University of Maine, and got his start in writing by serving as a reporter and later the State Editor of The Maine Campus, an award-winning campus newspaper.

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