A key player in Maine’s lucrative baby eel fishery has decided to plead guilty to violating federal laws by trafficking in poached eels.

The Bangor Daily News reported that William Sheldon and federal prosecutors reached the agreement on Sunday. Sheldon was charged with trafficking in more than a half a million dollars’ worth of poached baby eels.

Prosecutors say Sheldon bought elvers that he knew had been caught in New Jersey and Virginia, where fishing for them is not allowed. The 71-year-old Woolwich resident is scheduled to appear in federal court in Portland on Thursday to formally enter the plea.

Maine elvers are sold to Asia to be used as food.

Sheldon has waived his right to appeal any sentence that includes a prison term of 30 months or less.

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