WALDOBORO, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A battle between the State of Maine and the Passamaquoddy Tribal Government could result in the closing of Maine's elver fishery.
Elvers are small translucent eels which are selling for $2500 a pound. The state alleges that the tribe issued 375 illegal licenses and the sheer volume of fishermen could destroy the fishery.
The state alleges that it has a deal with the tribe which limits the Passamaquoddys to 200 licenses. The tribe says it has rights to the fishery and that it will stand its ground and encourage its people to continue to fish for elvers.
Maine is by far the largest fishery for elvers. South Carolina is the only other state which even allows the netting to go on and they issue only five licenses, according to the Maine Marine Patrol. Maine issues a little more than 600 licenses. The Passamaquoddy's have the right to issue 200 according to the state.
Last week, the state voided all Passamaquoddy licenses saying the tribe had not submitted a list of license holders to the state and therefore had not abided by state law.
When the Passamaquoddys did submit a list Friday afternoon, the state amended its action and said the first 150 Passamaquoddy licenses were legal. They are in the process of making 50 more licenses legal. This additional 50 are limited to dipping for elvers on the St. Croix river.
On Sunday night, Marine Patrol Officers confiscated four nets and are in the process of seeing if they can summons the owners.
The Passamaquoddys say they will stand their ground and continue to fish for elvers.
On Monday, there was a heated exchange between Governor Paul LePage and Chief Clayton Cleaves. In this discussion, LePage threatened to withhold his pledged support for the Truth and Reconciliation Act.
Tribal leaders have told NEWS CENTER that they will continue to fish.
Colonel Joe Fessenden of the Maine Marine Patrol says his organization is sworn to uphold the law. He said he hopes that they can appeal to the Passamaquoddys civilly in order to protect the resource, but that his organization is prepared to make more arrests if they must.