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Slimy Gold: Baby Eels Fetch $2K a Pound, Illegal Harvesting on the Rise

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April 03, 2012

Slimy Gold: Baby Eels Fetch $2K a Pound, Illegal Harvesting on the Rise

By Chad Love

Is this a new reality TV series just waiting to happen? The price of eels, yes, eels, is approaching the stratosphere.
 
From this story on abcnews.com
 
Tiny translucent elvers — alien-looking baby eels the size of toothpicks, with big black eyes and spines — are mysterious creatures, floating thousands of miles from their birthplace in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean before ending up each spring in Maine's rivers and streams. But there's no mystery about what's drawing hundreds of fishermen to riverbanks to catch the creatures during the two-month fishing season. The price of the eels has skyrocketed to unparalleled levels, with catches bringing up to $2,000 a pound.

A worldwide shortage of the prized dinner fare, imported in infancy from Maine to Asia to be raised in farm ponds, has buyers paying top dollar for the baby American eels. A pound of eels should be worth around $30,000 on the open market once grown to market size, according to one dealer. Elver prices go up and down all the time, but nobody's seen them shoot up the way they have over the past two seasons. Last year, at $891 per pound, elvers became Maine's fourth most-valuable wild fishery, worth more than well-known traditional fisheries such as groundfish, shrimp and scallops.

With this year's astronomical prices, fishermen and dealers are on edge about poachers, fishermen's safety, the secrecy of fishing spots and unwanted publicity. On top of all that, there's a move to have the eels protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Anyone participating in this slimy new gold rush?

Comments (6)

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from FL Hunter wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

It seems as if the Asian markets are always willing to pay highly for something hard to find or illegal.

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from vayotehowler wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

or somethign they have already exploited to near extinction i.e. bluefin tuna and shark fin swallows nests for soup

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from Pray- hunt-work wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Yotehowler, have you ever been to Maine in late august? I think I could change your outlook on the bluefin populations, and that's an open invitation. As for the elvers, or glass eels. I the permits are all grandfathered, meaning if you don't have one, you won't get one. Three guys in a neighboring town sold 80lbs on the opening night at a whopping 2,200$ a pound. It's just one more of Maine's natural resources. You stand on the edge of a brook where fresh and salt water meet with a glorified butterfly net and a Coleman lantern, dip them, and then immediately airorate them with oxygen. It takes place only at the high end of a tide, and only at night. As for leaving the lobster out of the list of Maine's money making resources, Chad, I want an apology...

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from Moose1980 wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Targeting the juvenile populations of a fish stock is never a good idea. It's not sustainable in the long run and when the populations crash, they'll all be looking around and wondering what happened!

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from Fat guy Aaron wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

We have that problem In Arizona, you see all these Koreans at the urban lakes and they catch a limit of trout or catfish, take them home and come back, they do this several times a day. I originally thought they were sustenance fishing but then found out an Asian market was illegally buying them from them. At first I thought, how do they do that with no FDA stamp and then quickly remembered they sell fish heads and frogs for human consumption and it all made sense.

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from Mibasshunter wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Man do I wish I lived in Maine now.

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from Pray- hunt-work wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Yotehowler, have you ever been to Maine in late august? I think I could change your outlook on the bluefin populations, and that's an open invitation. As for the elvers, or glass eels. I the permits are all grandfathered, meaning if you don't have one, you won't get one. Three guys in a neighboring town sold 80lbs on the opening night at a whopping 2,200$ a pound. It's just one more of Maine's natural resources. You stand on the edge of a brook where fresh and salt water meet with a glorified butterfly net and a Coleman lantern, dip them, and then immediately airorate them with oxygen. It takes place only at the high end of a tide, and only at night. As for leaving the lobster out of the list of Maine's money making resources, Chad, I want an apology...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Fat guy Aaron wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

We have that problem In Arizona, you see all these Koreans at the urban lakes and they catch a limit of trout or catfish, take them home and come back, they do this several times a day. I originally thought they were sustenance fishing but then found out an Asian market was illegally buying them from them. At first I thought, how do they do that with no FDA stamp and then quickly remembered they sell fish heads and frogs for human consumption and it all made sense.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from FL Hunter wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

It seems as if the Asian markets are always willing to pay highly for something hard to find or illegal.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from vayotehowler wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

or somethign they have already exploited to near extinction i.e. bluefin tuna and shark fin swallows nests for soup

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Moose1980 wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Targeting the juvenile populations of a fish stock is never a good idea. It's not sustainable in the long run and when the populations crash, they'll all be looking around and wondering what happened!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mibasshunter wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

Man do I wish I lived in Maine now.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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