Maine closes elver fishery for at least two weeks in an effort to stop caronavirus

BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - Maine's Elver fishery has been closed for a minimum of two weeks.

It's an effort to protect against the spread of the coronavirus.

That announcement was made Friday.

The multi-million dollar season was originally scheduled to start Sunday.

This closure hits many fisherman financially.

Eric Newell, an elver fishermen out of Calais spoke with TV 5.

He says he's been away from home saving his fishing spot since March 3rd.

He's been in the business for ten years and relies on the elver season to supplement his family's income.

In each of the past two years, Maine's 10-week fishing season for baby eels also known as elvers has generated more than $20 million in total revenue for roughly 1,000 licensed elver fishermen.

Newell says the closure will hurt families across the state who have invested in the season.

He says he himself has already sunk $2,500 into this year's fishing.

Newell says, "It's been so puzzling because recreational fishing is open up across the whole state and this fishing is something that my family and I depend on. When I tend my net I ain't close to other individuals. Very, very rarely do I even come in contact with other fishermen."

He says if the DMR came up with guidelines to follow, fishermen would gladly adhere to them.

Newell says, "We are hard working Mainers. We want to be able to go out here and be involved in this self-sustaining fishery. We don't mind working hard, and we don't mind sweating to work, but we just need to be able to do this. We are trying to provide for our families, all of us here."

Elver fishermen have already been concerned that the disease will greatly reduce demand for the baby eels in Asia.

Most elvers caught in Maine are shipped live to China where the global coronavirus outbreak started

A decrease in demand would result in lower prices for their catch.

Last year, fishermen earned more than $2,000 per pound on average.

Newell says many of them knew that was a possibility going in, but they still had a job to do.

The DMR Commissioner released a statement saying, "I share the goal of the Governor to find a way to safely open this fishery. While I have been criticized greatly for my decision I can tell you I would do it again tomorrow as the safety of our fishermen and their communities is our primary concern."

This closure is just the latest example of the sizable economic hit Maine's fishermen are taking as the global pandemic shuts down much of daily life.

Maine's seafood industry as a whole is set to suffer financially.

Governor Mills recently wrote a letter to President Trump urging his administration to consider providing direct financial assistance to Maine's seafood industry.