Environmental Police charged four Maine residents with poaching baby eels, along with several drug and firearm offenses, in Wareham on Saturday, officials said.
Officials found undersized glass eels, as well as small mesh nets used for collecting the eels, after stopping a car in an area known for illegal eel harvesting around 11:30 p.m., police said in a statement. The four people in the car, who were not identified, were then taken into custody.
While investigating, police discovered one of the suspects was in possession of crack cocaine and a crack pipe, officials said. A search of the car also led officers to find a .45 caliber hand gun, ammunition, heroin, and hypodermic needles containing a brown liquid.
No one in the vehicle was licensed to carry a firearm, police said.
Glass eels, also known as elvers or juvenile American eels, are highly valued as food in parts of Asia and have been known to sell for more than $2,000 per pound, according to the Maine Department of Marine Resources.
Eels were traditionally harvested in Europe and Asia to meet demand, but overfishing has led populations to decline, according to officials.
“As a result, harvesters have turned to the American eel to fill the void resulting from the decreased number of Asian and European eels,” Environmental Police said in their statement.
Wareham and State Police officials assisted with the investigation, the statement said.