WALDOBORO, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Maine's small but valuable elver fishery is nervously watching the current standoff between state government and the Passamaquoddy Tribe.
The Passamaquoddies are still refusing to abide by state regulations, which allocated them a total of 200 licenses for this season.
Last week, tribal leaders announced they were issuing 373 more licenses on their own. Following a weekend confrontation between the Marine Patrol and tribal members in the town of Pembroke, Passamaquoddy leaders have said they will not rescind those licenses.
Other non-tribal elver fishermen, and several elver dealers, told NEWS CENTER Tuesday they are worried the dispute between the state and the Tribe could lead to a shutdown of the entire fishery.
The Governor reportedly threatened a shutdown in a telephone call with tribal leaders. And the Department of Marine Resources says the federal agency that regulates the eel harvest, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, could also shut down the fishery if Maine allows too many licenses.
Fishermen and dealers say they're encouraged by the state's tough attitude with the Tribe, and by legislation, passed Monday in committee, that would criminalize violations of Maine's elver fishing regulations.
The same bill would also prohibit the current practice of dealers paying fishermen in cash. State officials have said that makes it difficult to track who is catching and selling the elvers, and how many are being caught.