A former legislative representative from the Passamaquoddy Tribe who served as the tribe’s fisheries committee coordinator and was the architect of its elver management plan has been charged with elver poaching in New York state.
Frederick J. Moore III, 53, of Perry and seven others were charged on April 8 with three felony counts, including possession of over-the-limit American eels, possession of undersized American eels, lack of a foodfish permit, as well as two misdemeanors related to poaching, according to a statement Friday from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
Moore – who previously was the tribe’s representative to the Maine Legislature – and the others charged turned themselves in to New York environmental authorities at the state police barracks in Riverside, N.Y., according to New York officials. Also accused of elver violations were two other Perry residents, Kyle S. Lewey, 21, and Frederick J. Moore IV, 21, four New York residents, and one Rhode Island resident. They allegedly harvested baby eels from a creek on Long Island’s east end, The Associated Press reported. They are due in court on June 8.
New York environmental officials declined to answer questions Friday about the investigations. Calls to Moore and tribal officials were not returned.
Elvers, a delicacy in Asian markets, have been a lucrative industry in recent years, although the catch and prices fell precipitously this spring. Only Maine and South Carolina have sanctioned elver fisheries.
The price for elvers has sunk to $400 to $650 per pound, down from $1,800 to $2,000 last year, according to fishermen.
In 2013, the elver catch was worth $33 million, second in value only to the lobster fishery in Maine.
As a tribal leader on fisheries issues, Moore has been intimately involved in disputes with the state over management of the elver fishery. The tribe has criticized legislation approved this year that treated the Passamaquoddies and other Native Americans on a par with nontribal Maine fishermen in limiting the elver catch. Tribal officials, including Moore, have argued that they have sovereign rights to manage a fishery that is deeply embedded in their culture.
The tribe has said that its self-regulated management plan, which was developed by Moore and other tribal members, protects the elvers from being overfished.
State and tribal officials have also sparred over the number of fishing licenses issued by the Passamaquoddy Tribe, which issued 500 licenses in 2013, about 300 more than allowed by the state. Concerned about overfishing as a result of high elver prices and pressure on the fishery, the Legislature passed a bill that criminalized violations of elver regulations and raised the penalty to $2,000.
Moore told members of the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee that the tribe supported the increased penalties.
Moore has argued that Maine should honor an agreement approved by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission that gave the tribe more authority over a portion of the elver fishery. But the Maine Attorney General’s Office disagreed, saying that fishing rules should be uniform across the state.
Gov. Paul LePage signed legislation in March that treats all elver fishermen the same, regardless of whether they belong to the tribe.
The charges against Moore and the others were the latest in a series of enforcement actions involving the elver fishery. On Thursday, two Massachusetts men were arrested in Portland on misdemeanor charges for poaching elvers, according to The Boston Globe.
And in late March, the Department of Marine Resources and Maine Attorney General’s Office announced that an Ellsworth fisherman had pleaded guilty to income tax evasion and theft charges for reporting less than half of his $700,000 earnings harvesting elvers in 2012.
Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at: