- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Maine’s baby eel fishery set a record for price per pound during a 2015 fishing year that saw total catch plummet, state regulators said.

The elvers were worth $2,172 per pound during the 2015 season, which ended Sunday, officials said. The previous high, according to state records that go back to 1994, was $1,868.73 in 2012, and last year’s price was $874.52.

The total value of the fishery grew from $8.5 million in 2014 to about $11.4 million this year. Dealers sell the elvers as seed stock to Asian aquaculture companies that raise them to maturity and use them as food.

The price increased in part because volume was down. Fishermen landed 5,242 pounds in 2015, compared to 9,688 last year. Fishermen attributed the slow season to the cold spring, which state Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher said depressed the migration of elvers. Fishermen catch the baby eels in rivers and streams.

Keliher said the increase in value reflects the success of the state’s management efforts, including a swipe card system for tracking elver sales that entered its second year this season. He said he considers the season a success, but acknowledged that the drop in catch was a challenge for fishermen.

“Fortunately, though, the value of Maine’s elvers remained at historic high levels, which resulted in an additional $2.9 million in the pockets of Maine’s elver fishermen,” Keliher said.

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