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Eel market sizzles as prices hit $2k/lb in Maine

PORTLAND, Maine — Fishermen in Maine are cashing in on tiny translucent baby eels that make their way up the state's streams and rivers each spring.

A worldwide shortage of elvers has driven prices up to an unprecedented $2,000 a pound.

Fishermen catch the alien-looking, toothpick-sized eels in nets and sell them to dealers who ship them to Asia, where they're grown out to market size in aquaculture ponds. One dealer says a pound of grown eels should be worth around $30,000 on the open market.

Eel prices first skyrocketed last year, making elvers Maine's fourth most-valuable wild fishery. They were worth more than groundfish, shrimp or scallops.

This year's high prices have fishermen and dealers on edge about poachers, the safety of fishermen, the secrecy of fishing spots and unwanted publicity.