AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - After several days of tough talk between the state and the Passamaquoddy Tribe, the two sides met face to face Wednesday to try to end their stalemate over elver fishing licenses.
The Passamaquoddy tribe was allocated a total of 200 licenses to fish for the tiny eels, but last week the tribe announced it was handing out 375 more licenses, a violation of state law.
There was a confrontation between tribal members and the Marine Patrol Sunday night in Washington County, and the dispute even threatened to shut down the entire fishery.
Last year, elvers became Maine's second biggest fishery in terms of value, with a harvest worth $38 million to fishermen.
Wednesday, Passamaquoddy leaders met with Marine Resources Commissioner Pat Keliher and leaders of the Legislature's Marine Resources Committee. Following the nearly 90-minute meeting, neither side would give specifics, but both said they had made progress finding "common ground".
They also were optimistic that the talks will avoid future confrontations. The sides say they will be talking daily until they work out a long term agreement.
On Wednesday afternoon the Marine Resources Committee voted unanimously in favor of a bill to create criminal penalties for violating Maine's elver fishing regulations. Under current law those are civil violations.