When the winter ice begins to thaw along the coast of Maine, millions of juvenile freshwater eels called “elvers” start their migration from the ocean into rivers and streams.

For decades, a sleepy fishery for elvers sustained folks looking for extra cash at the end of winter. But, in 2012 everything changed. Worldwide populations of freshwater eel species were in rapid decline despite global demand for eel as an ingredient in Asian cuisine.

The price for elvers skyrocketed to more than $2000 per pound. Camaraderie along the shores turned to competition as fishermen both licensed and illegal fought to fill their buckets with as many pounds of elvers as they could. A lucrative blackmarket ensued.

ELVERS is the story of what happened when this small-town Maine fishery exploded into a gold rush.

15 min / Digital / Color

Director / Producer