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Tuesday, May 31, 2016 Serving Maine and Lincoln County for over a century. Volume 141 Issue 21


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3/20/2013 2:00:00 PM
Bremen Man One Of Three Arrested In New Jersey
By LCN Staff

Dale B. Witham, 54, of Bremen was one of three Maine men arrested and charged with illegally harvesting more than 24,000 juvenile eels from Absecon Creek in Absecon, N.J.

Robert L. Royce, 65, of Hope and Neal V. Kenney III, 53, of Thomaston were observed by officers of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Fish and Wildlife tending an illegally set net at approximately 2:45 a.m. on March 13.

Witham is alleged to have been the driver of a vehicle used in the theft.

According to a report in the South Jersey Times, Royce and Kenney were found in possession of more than three pounds of glass eels, also known as elvers, equaling approximately 8000 individual eels.

"Further investigation led the officers to a vehicle with a tank holding an additional six pounds of glass eels, equaling about 16,000 eels," the report said.

According to the Department of Marine Resources website at, the American eel (Anguilla rostrata) spawns in the ocean and migrates to fresh water to grow to adult size.

As adult eels mature in the fall, they leave their growing areas in the fall, migrate to the Sargasso Sea and spawn during the late winter. After spawning, the adult eels die.

The eggs hatch after several days and develop into a larval stage which is shaped like a willow leaf. The larvae drift in the ocean for several months and then enter the Gulf Stream current to be carried north toward the North American continent.

As they approach the continental shelf, the larvae transform into miniature transparent eels called glass eels.

As glass eels leave the open ocean to enter estuaries and ascend rivers they are known as elvers. This migration occurs in late winter, early spring, and throughout the summer months. Some elvers may remain in brackish waters while others ascend rivers far inland. Eels may stay in growing areas from 8-25 years before migrating back to sea to spawn.

Witham, Royce and Kenney were each charged with criminal trespass for conducting the operation on property owned by the Atlantic City Municipal Utilities Authority; use of a fyke net without a license; use of an illegal fyke net; possession of approximately 24,250 eels measuring less than six inches in length; and possession of eels in excess of the daily possession limit.

A fyke net is a cylindrical or cone-shaped net mounted on rings that is fixed to the bottom of waterways by anchors or stakes.

The three were arrested and processed with the assistance of Absecon Police Department, and remanded to the Atlantic County Correctional Facility. Royce posted $2500 bail. Kenney and Witham were being held on $2500 bail.

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