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Public Notice:  Proposed Regulations, December 2011

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission invites public comment on the proposed amendments to regulations listed below. 

In accordance with Section 28.2-209 of the Code of Virginia, a public hearing on the proposed regulations will be held at 12:00 noon, on Tuesday, December 6, 2011, at the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, 2600 Washington Avenue, Newport News, Virginia.  Written comments on the proposals should be mailed to Jack Travelstead, VMRC Fisheries Management Division, 2600 Washington Avenue, 3rd Floor, Newport News, Virginia 23607, by 5:00 p.m., Monday, December 5, 2011.  Copies of the proposed regulations may be reviewed at the Commission Monday through Friday, 8:15 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and may be obtained by calling the Commission at (757) 247-2248. 

I.  Chapter 4 VAC20-960-10 et seq. "Pertaining to Tautog". 

The Commission proposes to amend Chapter 4 VAC20-960-10 et seq., "Pertaining to Tautog", to reduce annual commercial and recreational landings, by as much as 53% from average landings during 2008 and 2009.  A 2011 Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) assessment of the status (biological stability) of the Atlantic coastal tautog stock suggests that the stock is overfished and overfishing (annual landing rates are too high) is occurring.

Changes to the VMRC regulation, for the Virginia recreational tautog fishery, could include an increase in the closed season, a decrease in the possession limit, an increase in the minimum size limit or a combination of all three conservation measures, as shown below in Table 1:

Table 1. Virginia recreational landings reduction options to achieve the proposed 53% reduction in annual landings by the recreational tautog fishery. Current regulations: 14-inch minimum size limit, 4 fish possession (bag) limit and closed season May 1- June 24 (55 days).

Options

Min Size

Bag

Closed Season

Closed Days
1 17 4 March 1- March 22; May 16- June 30 68
2 17 4 March 1- 19; May 7- June 30 74
3 16 4 March 1- April 7; May 16- June 30 83
4 16 4 April 1- July 29 120
5 16 4 March 1- March 31; May 19- June 30; Dec 1-Dec 31 105
6 16 3 April 16- October 9 177
7 16 3 March 1- April 2; May 7- June 30 87
8 16 3 March 1- April 6; May 16- June 30 81
9 15 3 March 1- April 6; May 7- June 30; Dec 1- Dec 31  123

To achieve as much as a 53% reduction in the Virginia commercial tautog fishery landings, the current commercial fishery regulations of a closed season from May 1 through November 12, and a 14-inch minimum size limit could include an increase in the number of days in the closed season, an increase of the minimum size limit or a combination of both conservation measures.  The commercial fishery could also be managed by a quota that is established as a percentage reduction, up to 53%, from the average of 2008 and 2009 Virginia commercial tautog landings.  This quota would be 5,227 pounds, starting in 2012, and is shown in the reduction table, below, as Options 3, 5 and 7, in Table 2. 

Table 2.  Virginia commercial landings reduction options to achieve the proposed 53% reduction in annual landings by the commercial tautog fishery.  Current regulations: 14-inch minimum size limit, closed season from May 1- November 12 (196 closed days).

         "N" in the quota field means no quota is considered. 
         "Y" represents a quota of 5,227 pounds, based on a 53% reduction in average 2008 and 2009 landings.

Options

Min Size

Quota

Closed Season

Closed Days
1 17 N May 1- November 25 209
2 16 N January 1- 22; May 1- November 31 236
3 16 Y May 1- November 12 196
4 15 N January 1- 22; May 1- December 31 267
5 15 Y May 1- November 12 196
6 14 N February 11- December 31 325
7 14 Y May 1- November 12 196
                             Note: All options include 196 closed days for the current closed season.

The VMRC also submitted an alternative conservation measure to the ASMFC, an increase of the current recreational and commercial fisheries' minimum size limit, from 14 inches to 16 inches, and an increase in the closed seasons (for the recreational fishery a closure of April 16- July 31, for the commercial fishery a closure of April 16- November 12).  In addition, the VMRC submitted an alternative method for calculating required reductions in the annual landings rate, and this approach, know as a catch-curve analysis, indicated Virginia would be required to reduce landings in both fisheries by 50.5%, rather than 53%.

In early November the ASMFC will meet to approve state-specific management plans.  At that time, the VMRC will know whether there is to be any variance from the 53% reduction in annual landings.  These amendments are necessary to comply with the requirements of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission fishery management plan for tautog. A January 1, 2012 implementation date is required.

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VMRC DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE AGAINST INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES; THEREFORE, IF YOU ARE IN NEED OF REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS DUE TO A DISABILITY, PLEASE ADVISE BETTY WARREN (757-247-2248) NO LATER THAN FIVE WORK DAYS PRIOR TO THE MEETING DATE AND IDENTIFY YOUR NEEDS.



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