The American eel is an important and fascinating species. It is a top-order predator in freshwater streams and rivers, and an important food source for marine mammals, turtles, birds, and fish–and they are, arguably, the best bait for catching large striped bass. Every year, mature American eels undergo an amazing journey, leaving their homes in freshwater rivers and travelling to the Sargasso Sea where they will spawn and die. The juvenile eels, known as glass eels or elvers, undergo an equally amazing journey, arriving in freshwater rivers each spring.
These “glass eels” command outrageous prices, with a pound of glass eels fetching more than $2000 in recent years. The elvers are sold overseas to become seed stock for aquaculture operations that raise them for food. Rampant overfishing led to the closure of commercial elver fisheries in all but two states – Maine and South Carolina. Unfortunately, the high price on the heads of the juvenile eels attracts poachers and eel traffickers, like William Sheldon, a longtime commercial elver dealer, operating as Kennebec Glass Eels, who was charged with conspiracy and violating the federal Lacey Act.
Prosecutors say that from 2011 to 2014, while Sheldon was licensed in Maine and South Carolina to commercially harvest elvers, he violated the Lacey Act by buying or selling eels illegally poached in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia and North Carolina.
Each of the seven counts carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Read the full story from the Bangor Daily News.