BREWER, Maine (AP) – The U.S. Department of Justice and other agencies are waging a multi-state crackdown on illegal fishing for valuable baby eels.
Baby American eels, or elvers, are an important piece of the worldwide sushi industry. But they’re fished legally in only two U.S. states: Maine and South Carolina.
Federal authorities say illegal fishing for elvers jeopardizes the long-term sustainability of the species.
The investigation has yielded 15 guilty pleas involving illegal trafficking of about $4 million worth of elvers.
Elvers can be sold for more than $2,000 per pound at the dock.
They often are sold to Asian aquaculture companies to be raised to maturity and have become a linchpin of the sushi supply chain.