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BREWER, Maine — A tiny translucent eel that sells for nearly $2,000 a pound has created a modern gold rush along Maine’s rivers and streams, generating millions of dollars for once-struggling fishermen, a surge in illegal fishing, and a debate about how long the economic boom can — or should — last.
The price of the baby American Eel, also known as the glass eel or elver, has fluctuated over the past decade, dropping as low a $25 a pound at one point. But following a 2010 European moratorium on exporting eels and a depleted Japanese stock that was aggravated by the 2011 tsunami, prices took off last year to meet Asia’s voracious appetite for eel. Last spring, eels were going for $2,600 a pound.