Man gets prison time for illegally harvesting Virginia eels

FILE - In this May 19, 2015, file photo, baby eels, known as elvers, swim in a plastic bag at a buyer's holding facility in Portland, Maine. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, it has decided not to list American eels under the Endangered Species Act. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — A New York seafood dealer has been sentenced to 1 ½ years behind bars for illegally trafficking more than $150,000 worth of baby eels from Virginia.

The Virginian-Pilot reports that 42-year-old Tommy Zhou of Brooklyn was sentenced Friday in a federal Virginia court after he pleaded guilty in April.

Called elvers, baby eels are valuable because they are sold to Asian aquaculture companies so they can be raised to maturity and used as food. Fishermen sometimes sell them for more than $2,000 per pound at the dock. They can be legally harvested only in Maine and South Carolina, and the fishery is tightly regulated.

Prosecutors say Zhou obtained a Maine elver dealer license in 2013 and then used it to cover his illegal operation.

Zhou’s attorneys declined to comment.

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