August 3, 2013

Group could catch flak over elvers regulations

The fishery will remain open but a board will decide next week on possible regulations.

By North Cairn
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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A federal commission meets next week to review recommendations for changes to its proposed management plan for American eels.

Associated Press File Photo

Across its range, the American eel has been assessed as "depleted in U.S. waters," according to the species profile provided by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

"The stock is at near historically low levels due to a combination of historical overfishing, habitat loss, food web alterations, predation, turbine mortality, environmental changes, toxics and contaminants and disease," the commission wrote in its species report.

In addition, the U.S. Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service is considering whether to have the species listed as endangered or threatened, said Stockwell.

But eel fisheries vary considerably by life stage and from state to state, resulting in complex regulations and uncertain outcomes, commission officials said.

In addition, differences have surfaced in the working group as representatives from different parts of the Atlantic coast have pressed the case for their constituents.

For example, in a debate over whether to maintain the status quo in the elver fisheries, Stockwell said, he moved to keep the fishery going -- a clear line in the sand for Maine elver fishermen.

Stockwell's measure was rejected, and a representative from Massachusetts – which favors much tighter controls and restrictions on fishing for American eels – immediately voted to close the fishery, he said.

That proposal also was defeated.

Each of the main points of contention is addressed by the working group's recommendations, which can be adopted by the board next week. But any changes to the original proposal would be subject to yet another round of public comment hearings.

Nothing definite has been decided, said Kate Taylor, senior fisheries management plan coordinator for the commission, and the full board can delay action on some or all of the points.

"There are a lot of moving parts here," said Taylor. 

North Cairn can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:


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