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2024 Maritime elver season officially cancelled | CBC News

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The federal government has carried through on its threat to cancel the 2024 season for baby eels, also known as elvers, in the Maritimes admitting it is unable to manage the lucrative — but increasingly chaotic — fishery.

In a statement on Monday, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Diane Lebouthillier cited “significant quantities of elvers being fished illegally” and “harassment, threats and violence between harvesters and toward fishery officers.”

“In the light of all these considerations, it is clear that without significant changes, the risks to conservation of the species cannot be addressed and orderly management of the fishery cannot be restored,” she said.

The department says it needs more time to put in regulations to crack down on the illegal harvest mainly with improved traceability for exports.

Lebouthillier said the fishery will not reopen until “these measures are in place.”

This is the third closure in five years as unauthorized harvesters cashed in on the tiny translucent eels on rivers in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Third closures in five years

They are netted and then shipped live to China and grown to adulthood for food. They sell for thousands of dollars a kilogram.

Last month Lebouthillier signalled her intention to shut down the fishery this year but asked for consultations with stakeholders.

Commercial licence holders like Brian Giroux of Shelburne Elver group were informed Monday. This year, as in past years, they demanded more enforcement and argued for a delayed opening.

“We were working on a whole bunch of options for them and working with the First Nations on this issue, new entries to the fishery. And they never even listened to us when they’ve had nine years to do something about this and they’ve done nothing,” Giroux said.

“This is their response when the going gets tough, you go hide. This is not an appropriate response for an agency that created this mess. I think some heads should roll here,” Giroux told CBC News.

The decision to close the 2024 season was accompanied by a news release from the department announcing five people were arrested and released last week in southwest Nova Scotia for unauthorized harvest of elvers.

Warning to poachers: stay away

Fisheries and Oceans Canada said fishery officers seized two vehicles, one fyke net designed to catch elvers, eight dip nets, elver fishing equipment and approximately 1.14 kilograms of elver, which were released live back into their river where they caught.

“By not opening the fishery, our message is crystal clear: do not travel to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to engage in elver harvesting,” Lebouthillier said in her statement.

The legal elver harvest is worth about $45 million a year. The authorized quota was just under 10,000 kilos, shared between eight commercial licence holders, one communal commercial Indigenous licence and Indigenous communities in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick exercising treaty right to fish for a moderate living with Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s approval.

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