AUGUSTA — Maine is implementing a new lottery system for licenses to fish for baby eels, which are worth more than $1,000 per pound on the worldwide sushi market.

Maine and South Carolina are the only U.S. states with fisheries for baby eels, called elvers. Maine’s fishery is much larger, and the elvers have been especially valuable in recent years because foreign sources have dried up.

Industry members and lawmakers say the fishery needs a way to bring new people into the business because many elver fishermen are nearing retirement. The Legislature approved the lottery system last month.

The law authorizes up to 425 elver fishing licenses a year. The application fee to enter the lottery is $35 and, if successful, the fee for an individual resident’s license is $205. A non-resident individual license will cost $542. Applications for the lottery must be submitted by Jan. 15.

Rep. Jeffrey Pierce, a Dresden Republican, said the law will likely be in effect by late October. The law says that a lottery could be held between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15 of 2018.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.