BREWER, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Maine Department of Marine Resources is reporting preliminary figures that show elver fishermen harvested less than 10-thousand pounds of elvers this season, well below recent harvests.
The low catch has caused enough concern that federal regulators held two meetings today to hear from Maine elver fishermen and state fishery officials.
The meetings were geared toward helping the government develop a plan to preserve the fishery.
"There's no sign of a decline with the overall population, so we've got plans in place that ensure sustainability and ensure growth for the long term," Patrick Keliher, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources, said.
Fishers and state officials think the current laws regulating elver fishing in Maine are fine the way they are, but the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is looking to propose a law after they say the American eel stocks are depleted.
That change could reduce the elver catch limit or even close the fishery altogether in the future, so the ASMFC wanted to get the public's opinion first.
"This is a great stage to be submitting your public comment to really assist and aid in the development of these measures, so that fishers and other interested stakeholders can really have a say in how the fishery should look like in the future and how they believe the fishery should be managed," the ASMFC's Kate Taylor said.
Mitchell Feigenbaum, who held a meeting to explain the addendum to Maine elver fishers, is a fish buyer. He depends on the elver fishery. He admits that the stocks are low, but said they're not low enough to change state regulation.
"Depleted as per the ASMFC's own language simply means that the stocks are low, as compared to what they're capable of historically or prehistorically," Feigenbaum said.
However, the ASMFC believes these eels have important scientific value that could help us on a larger scale.
"They are just a very unique and mysterious creature, and I think that warrants some respect," Taylor said. "They are very elusive, and we have a lot to learn from them, which will hopefully teach us more about management of other species as well."