AUGUSTA — The management and status of the American eel in the Gulf of Maine and other Atlantic coastal areas are being reviewed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission at a public hearing Tuesday afternoon in Augusta.
The hearing is to take public comment on a draft addendum to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for American Eel. The plan proposes a wide range of commercial and recreational management options for yellow, glass – including elvers – and silver eels.
The proposal also calls for increased monitoring of the fishery by states, and it outlines methods for improving habitat, among other measures, the commission has reported.
Among those expected to comment on the plan are representatives of the Passamaquoddy tribe, which has been at odds in recent weeks with the Maine Department of Marine Resources and Gov. Paul LePage over 2012 elver licensing rules. The tribe has issued more than its allotted number of licenses, and the state has refused to recognize the validity of the additional tribal licenses.
Maine Marine Patrol officers have been issuing summonses to Passamaquoddies with licenses over the state-designated number.
The illegal taking of elvers has been made a criminal – rather than civil – offense as a result of an emergency measure passed in April by the Legislature. It carries a mandatory fine of $2,000 and potential seizure of gear, as well as possible jail time.
The draft addendum is a response to a 2012 report that determined populations of American eel have been declining for decades and are severely depleted in Atlantic waters. The declines have been linked to a variety of contributing causes, including overfishing, habitat loss, turbine mortality, climate change impacts – rising temperatures and acidification – in the ocean and changes to the web of sea life.