Eleven lucky Mainers have won the elver lottery.

Their names were chosen Tuesday from among more than 8,000 entries submitted by more than 3,000 people vying for the opportunity to participate in Maine’s most lucrative fishery on a per-pound basis.

“I’m pleased we can provide an opportunity for Mainers to benefit from this valuable resource,” Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher said in a statement issued Wednesday. The last elver lottery was held in 2013.

DMR spokesman Jeff Nichols described this year’s competition for elver licenses as fierce, with 3,136 people entering the lottery. He said 1,496 people paid $35 each to enter their name once, and 1,640 others paid extra to enter their names up to the limit of five times. A total of 8,093 entries were received.

Maine has capped the number of active elver licenses at 425. The 11 in the lottery became available after licenses were not renewed for various reasons, such as people retiring, passing away or leaving the industry.

“This (lottery) was a rare opportunity,” Nichols said. “By a long shot, this is the most lucrative fishery in Maine on a per-pound basis.”

The 2018 lottery winners were Warren Elsaesser of Naples, William Schad of North Yarmouth, Cathie Harrington of Nobleboro, Amanda Harvey of Swanville, Celeste Risbridger of Gouldsboro, Michael Griffin of Whiting, Raymond Pomeroy of Stockton Springs, Marcel Nuss of Surry, Gregory Ring of Sorrento, Krista Tripp of Spruce Head and Ryan Larrabee of Stonington.

The 2018 elver harvesting season in Maine begins March 22 and ends at 12 noon June 7.

Under the lottery system, which was authorized by the Legislature during its last session, the 11 winners must apply for the licenses. An applicant with a criminal record could be disqualified. Applicants also must indicate whether they want to harvest the fish using a dip net or a fyke net.

Elver fishermen, working mostly at night, collect elvers, also called glass eels, as they ascend rivers from their ocean spawning areas each spring. Elver licenses are coveted because on average a fisherman can earn $6,000 in less than three months.

Earning that much money depends entirely on overseas markets, with the fish considered a delicacy in countries such as Japan, China, Taiwan and Korea, where baby eels are cultured and reared to adult size for the seafood market.

In 2015, the per-pound price for elvers surpassed $2,000. In 2017, the per-pound price dropped to just over $1,300.

“They have become a popular food staple in Asia,” Nichols said. “The value and the demand in the Asian markets have ramped up significantly.”

The Legislature suspended the elver lottery after 2013 because of an overall state quota that was established by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

In 2017, the Legislature authorized renewal of the lottery, but capped total licenses at 425. The overall state elver quota is capped at 9,688 pounds. The elver fishery quota system allows one license holder to take up to 4 pounds per season.

Twenty-five dollars from each application will be deposited into the Eel and Elver Management Fund, which is used to support research, management, administration and enforcement of Maine’s eel and elver fisheries.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]

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