MAINE, USA — After ensuring protocols are in place to protect fishermen, dealers and communities from the spread of COVID-19, the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) will open the elver season at 8 a.m. on Monday, March 30.

Under the authority established by Governor Janet Mills’ March 15 civil emergency proclamation, licensed elver harvesters may fish for and sell the quota of another licensed harvester. Dealers have also agreed to limit transactions significantly by only buying 1 pound or more of elvers.

DMR closed the fishery through emergency rulemaking before its scheduled opening on March 22, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Portions of the elver fishery as traditionally practiced make it challenging to follow social distancing recommendations, including maintaining 6 feet from other people to reduce the spread of this disease," Maine DMR Commissioner Patrick Keliher said.

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“Our objective is to reduce the population of harvesters congregating on the shores and at dealers’ shops,” Keliher said. “Key to achieving this objective will be to allow those who are the most vulnerable to remain at home and have another harvester catch the elvers for them.”

Individual license holders may allow another license holder to use their gear to catch their quota for them. If a license holder chooses to allow another license holder to fish for them, the license holder who is fishing must have the license and swipe card in their possession of the harvester who is staying home

A license holder may allow another license holder to sell their quota for them. If a license holder chooses to allow another license holder to sell for them, the license holder who is selling must also have the license and swipe card in their possession of the harvester who is staying home.

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The license holder who is fishing and/or selling may fish/sell for any number of other license holders, however, they may not take, possess, or sell more pounds of elvers than the combined quota of the license holder(s) for whom they are fishing and/or selling.

In addition, all harvesters are expected to maintain social distancing (minimum of 6 feet of separation) at all times (fishing and selling), spread out fishing effort on the rivers to the greatest degree possible and fish as close to home as practical, to avoid traveling throughout the State.

Elver dealers have developed and agreed on a specific set of protocols for elver sales transactions, that are designed to minimize the risk of the spread of COVID-19 and are consistent with CDC guidelines. These include limiting each transaction to one pound or more. This will eliminate hundreds of transactions over the course of the season and further reduce the potential to spread the virus. Harvesters are expected to comply with the protocols specified by the dealers.

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Maine Marine Patrol will monitor the fishery to determine whether participants are following the necessary protocols. 

“If I become aware that participants are not following protocols designed to keep all residents of the state of Maine safe, the fishery will be closed,” Keliher said. 

In addition, if Maine CDC guidance changes prior to the end of the season and it is not possible for the fishery to follow the new guidance, the fishery will be closed.

“We worked with Tribal leadership, industry leadership and Maine Marine Patrol to develop a plan to allow the elver fishery to occur in a way that does not present unnecessary risk to the participants, or other residents of the State,” Keliher said. “Harvesters should take the opportunity to thank these individuals as it was their input that allowed us to reopen the fishery”

Anyone with questions about the changes in fishing practices allowed for the 2020 Maine elver season, please contact your local Marine Patrol Officer.

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