Executive Briefings

Sushi Stress: Fishermen Not Catching Many Baby Eels

The chilly rivers of Maine are causing trouble in the world of sushi. The state's brief, annual season for baby eels is off to a slow start because of a cold spring that has prevented the fish from running in rivers.

The baby eels, called elvers, are an important piece of the worldwide sushi supply chain. They're sold to Asian aquaculture companies - sometimes for more than $2,000 per pound - that raise them to maturity and use them as food.

"Everything is slow," said state Rep. Henry Bear, who represents members of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians who fish for elvers. "But we're hopeful."

Maine has the only significant fishery for elvers in the country, and fishermen are limited to a quota of a little less than 10,000 pounds (4,500 kilograms) per year.

The season started March 22, and state records say fishermen have only caught about 1,050 pounds (475 kilograms), so far. They have until June 7 to try to catch the entire allotment, which means they are well behind pace.

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The baby eels, called elvers, are an important piece of the worldwide sushi supply chain. They're sold to Asian aquaculture companies - sometimes for more than $2,000 per pound - that raise them to maturity and use them as food.

"Everything is slow," said state Rep. Henry Bear, who represents members of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians who fish for elvers. "But we're hopeful."

Maine has the only significant fishery for elvers in the country, and fishermen are limited to a quota of a little less than 10,000 pounds (4,500 kilograms) per year.

The season started March 22, and state records say fishermen have only caught about 1,050 pounds (475 kilograms), so far. They have until June 7 to try to catch the entire allotment, which means they are well behind pace.

Read Full Article