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Two Men Indicted for Illegally Trafficking American Eels: Joseph Kelley and James Lewis were each indicted in Newark, New Jersey, with crimes related to illegally trafficking juvenile American eels, also known as “elvers” or “glass eels.”  A seven-count indictment was returned on Jan. 18, 2018, charging Kelley and Lewis with conspiracy to smuggle elvers and violate the Lacey Act.

The Indictment alleges that Kelley and Lewis knowingly harvested elvers illegally in the states of New Jersey and Massachusetts, and sold those elvers to dealers or exporters. Among those dealers is Thomas Choi, who pleaded guilty to related crimes in the District of Maine in 2016, and who was subsequently sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for those offenses.

The indictments were announced today by Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and Acting Director Greg Sheehan of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Eels are highly valued in east Asia for human consumption.  Historically, Japanese and European eels were harvested to meet this demand. However, overfishing has led to a decline in the population of these eels.  As a result, harvesters have turned to the American eel to fill the void resulting from the decreased number of Japanese and European eels.  Because of the threat of overfishing, elver harvesting is prohibited in the United States in all but two states: Maine and South Carolina.  Maine and South Carolina heavily regulate elver fisheries, requiring that individuals be licensed and report all quantities of harvested eels to state authorities.

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Two Men Indicted for Illegally Trafficking American Eels: Joseph Kelley and James Lewis were each indicted in Newark, New Jersey, with crimes related to illegally trafficking juvenile American eels, also known as “elvers” or “glass eels.”  A seven-count indictment was returned on Jan. 18, 2018, charging Kelley and Lewis with conspiracy to smuggle elvers and violate the Lacey Act. The Indictment alleges that Kelley and Lewis knowingly harvested elvers illegally in the states of New Jersey and Massachusetts, and sold those elvers to dealers or exporters. Among those dealers is Thomas Choi, who pleaded guilty to related crimes in the District of Maine in 2016, and who was subsequently sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for those offenses. The indictments were announced today by Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and Acting Director Greg Sheehan of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.