ROCKPORT, Maine (AP) — Members of Maine’s baby-eel fishing industry are expecting high prices for the tiny fish this year because of a shortage on the international market, and sushi lovers could end up feeling the pinch.
Maine is the only U.S. state with a significant fishery for baby eels, or elvers. The tiny, translucent eels are sold to Asian aquaculture companies to be raised to maturity for use as food. They’re a key piece of the worldwide supply chain for Japanese dishes such as unagi, and some eventually make it back to the U.S.
The eels sold for about $1,300 per pound at the docks last year, about on par with an ounce of gold, and are already one of the most lucrative fisheries in the country on a per-pound basis. Fishermen in Asia are seeing a poor harvest this year, and European eel fisheries are cracking down on poaching, said state Rep. Jeffrey Pierce, a Dresden Republican and consultant to the elver fishery.