A Massachusetts man was arrested after he was found in possession of 16½ pounds of elvers, the Maine Department of Marine Resources said Monday.

Joseph Starratt, 51, of Middleborough was arrested April 28 in Scarborough after DMR officials received a tip that an unlicensed individual was in possession of elvers.

Elvers are baby eels, and are plentiful in rivers and streams throughout Maine in the early spring. The tiny, translucent animals are raised to adulthood at farms before becoming food. Depending on the market, they can fetch thousands of dollars per pound.

The fishing of glass eels is highly regulated, with state officials setting annual quotas. Fishermen must be licensed to catch and possess the eels, and dealers who buy them for resale must report their sales to the state.

Possession of elvers without a license is a Class D misdemeanor punishable by either one year in jail, a $2,000 fine or both, according to the DMR.

“Elvers are, pound for pound, by far the most valuable marine resource in Maine,” said Greg Sirpis, the board chairman of Operation Game Thief, a private, nonprofit organization that runs a confidential tip line and works with state agencies to support poaching investigations. “Maine has done a great job of managing this resource and minimizing illegal activity in the fishery. But this case shows that the big bucks associated with this fishery will still tempt some to violate the law.”

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

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