By Andy Metzger
With a unanimous vote by the Senate Wednesday and a final enactment vote in the House on Thursday, Massachusetts is on the brink of increasing by 100-fold the fine for poaching baby eels.
State law currently forbids the taking or possession of elvers or eels less than 4 inches long, and the punishment is $100."
A pound of the elvers is worth $1,000 so clearly there is no incentive at all to stop poaching," said Sen. Dan Wolf, a Harwich Democrat.
The bill (H 3782) filed by Provincetown Democrat Rep. Sarah Peake would increase the fine for violations of the state’s eel-taking statute from $100 to $10,000.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, only Maine and Florida allow the harvesting of "glass eels" or baby eels.
Eels spawn in the warm water Sargasso Sea between the Azores and West Indies and the young migrate to estuaries from Greenland to Brazil, according to NOAA, which said eel harvests declined from the 1960s to 1996 and have remained relatively stable since then."
They’re a very important part of our fishery, a very important part of the ecosystem," Wolf said.Sen. Bruce Tarr, a Gloucester Republican and outspoken supporter of the state’s commercial fishery, rose in support of the measure, which passed on a 38 to 0 vote.