A changing climate means changing fisheries, and if we have smart young people thinking about farming oysters or clams, or developing a bay scallop industry, or growing amazing eel for the sushi trade, then that’s interesting, and we should be checking that out.
— Guest Editor Sam SiftonEvery spring, fishermen pull elvers — baby eels — from Maine rivers by the netful as the squiggly, toothpick-size fish swim from ocean to lakes. At market, a pound of them — about 2,000 elvers — can go for more than $2,500. The buyers? Fish farms in Asia, where there’s a big appetite for adult eel. But Rockland resident Sara Rademaker is working to keep elvers here via her company, American Unagi, the only eel-farming venture in Maine. “The fish is already connected to our economy, and I thought it’d be even cooler to connect a year-round aquaculture facility to a seasonal fishery,” she says. Rademaker currently raises her eels in tanks at UMaine’s Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research, in Franklin, and she recently announced plans to break ground on a facility of her own in Waldoboro. A baby eel is worth a little over $1, but an adult might be worth almost 10 times that. “It seemed like a no-brainer to grow them here,” she says.