Canada has now put a 45 day ban on the fishing of baby eels due to a number of attacks on the harvesters and growing concern of the poaching of this now threatened fish. Set to be enacted in the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, this ban will temporarily shut down the $50 million market.
“Conflicts have escalated to violence and threats, risking the safety of harvesters and constituting a threat to the proper management and control of the fishery. Closing the elver fishery is a required response to address these combined risks,” stated the Department of Fisheries.
Earlier in April there was an alleged assault on a fisherman harvesting the baby eels. Two men were apprehended over the attack and many other accounts have been brought forward, linking many previous attacks to this fishery. The harvest season goes from March to the end of May, with harvesters putting in as much effort in that three month span as they can. Just last year, high demand brought one kg of baby eels, or elvers, to sell for $5,000. More than a decade ago Canada’s endangered wildlife committee put the elvers on the “threatened” list and set a limited amount you can harvest.
In recent years, many Indigenous nations have grown frustrated over the harvest of these fishes, and the neglected treaty rights not upheld by the government. In years previous, Canada’s supreme court ruled that said nations have a right to harvest from the land and water to obtain a “moderate livelihood.” This term has yet to be defined by the government, sending these nations into confusion and frustration over their vague regulations. In 2020, the harvesting of the eels was halted due to the Mi’kmaw fishers joining the commercial license-holders, complicating and intertwining the federal department’s ability to manage and limit the total catch amount. In hopes of subduing the current situation, the department has issued a granted share to the Indigenous communities of the growing commercial quota. As of today, these communities receive 14% of the commercial harvest.
In order to manage the ban properly, patrol and inspections have increased at rivers, airports, and border crossings. This season, the department has already conducted 750 patrols, resulting in the confiscation of 35.8kgs of elvers worth more than $125,000.