"In the dark of the night, a group of fishermen huddles around a net. They’re gathered at a riverbank in Ellsworth, Maine, collecting one of the most lucrative seafood in the world: elvers, or baby glass eels. A 5-gallon bucket brimming with these translucent creatures is worth $50,000...More at The Atlantic.
Freshwater eels are a highly-coveted delicacy in Asian cuisine. In Japan, the world’s top consumer of eels, elvers are grown from their “ghost in the water” juvenile stage—as Sibley put it in the film—to adulthood, when they are killed and served as unagi. Little is known about the eel lifecycle, however, so they can’t be bred in captivity and factory-farmed. The Asian aquaculture industry instead relies on wild-caught elvers from rivers and coastal waters.
In the past, this Asian market was for the most part fed by European and Japanese eels. American eels were worth around $24 per pound, just a fraction of international eel sales. But European and Japanese eel populations have declined by 90 percent since the ’80s. In 2010, the European eel was listed as critically endangered, leading the European Union to ban all exports. Then, in 2011, a massive earthquake rocked Japan, destroying the country’s major aquaculture operations. By 2012, global demand for eels had skyrocketed the price for a single pound of elvers to $2,000...
Meanwhile, the fate of the species hangs in the balance. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has red-listed and declared all three species of freshwater eel to be endangered. The American eel is precipitously in decline; the population has dropped to 1% of its highest levels.
“This is a universal story,” Morrison told me, “about how we mismanage natural resources in the global economy.”