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Note:  to see public notices for proposed regulatory actions, upcoming meeting dates and past meeting minutes use the Agency Meeting Calendar.

June 2016

June 28, 2016:   The Virginia Marine Resources Commission voted unanimously to extend the fall commercial crab season by three weeks to December 20, 2016 and to open the spring season two weeks earlier next year on March 1, 2017. The Commission also agreed to extend the season for peeler potters and to allow crab pounds to be set up two weeks before the season starts, but not fished until the season starts. The winter dredge fishery will remain closed this year.   [Meeting Summary]

June 24, 2016:
Governor McAuliffe today announced the reappointments of Lynn Haynie Kellum of Reedville and James E. “JJ” Minor, III of Richmond to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. Mrs. Kellum was born and raised in Reedville and is the General Manager at AMPRO Shipyard & Diesel, which services and repairs commercial and recreational vessels. Mr. Minor serves as a Project Analyst for both Richmond’s Department of Public Utilities and the Department of Economic and Community Development.

June 23, 2016: MRIP released a final 2015 harvest recreational landings estimate, 3.96 million pounds, for black sea bass. This estimate is 1.63 million pounds over the coastwide (NH – NC) harvest limit (2.33 million pounds). The preliminary 2015 harvest estimate of 3.52 million pounds would have necessitated a 23.2% reduction for 2016. Based on the final estimate, a larger reduction must be taken in order to remain below the 2016 harvest limit. Now, the necessary coastwide reduction is 28.9%. The ASMFC Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Technical Committee met via conference call on June 23 to discuss possible management measures to meet the reduction, and to draft recommendations for the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Management Board. For a number of years, Delaware through North Carolina have followed federal waters measures, and landings of black sea bass from these states have not contributed to the persistent overages of the coastwide recreational harvest limit. That limit has been exceeded each year since 2010, except for 2011, and reduction measures have been assumed by states north of Delaware. Additional details will be provided as the ASMFC process unfolds.

June 14, 2016: Virginia Marine Resources Commission invites public comment on the establishment of a new regulation pertaining to Establishment of Restricted Area – Maritime Administration James River Reserve Fleet [Notice]

June 10, 2016: Effective Noon, Sunday, June 12, 2016, the Virginia horseshoe crab commercial hand harvest fishery will close. [Notice]

June 1, 2016: At its May meeting, the Commission voted to extend the recreational cobia fishing season in Virginia waters to August 30, 2016, with a one fish per person limit and a two fish daily vessel limit only when two fishermen or more are aboard any vessel, for all recreational fishing vessels including for-hire (charter and head boats). The minimum size was increased to 40" total length with only one of the two fish vessel limit allowed to exceed 50" total length. There will also be a prohibition on gaffing. The Commission voted for a mandatory reporting system in 2017 for recreational and charter boat cobia catch (harvested and released fish). The Commission also agreed to a start a pilot, voluntary program for cobia permitting and reporting in 2016 for both recreational and for-hire cobia fishermen, which is now available. Cobia anglers are encouraged to participate, as more specific information about cobia fishing in Virginia has the potential to be used in the regional fishery management processes that are directing cobia management along the East Coast. Visit the following web links to learn more about the new no-cost cobia permits, harvest reporting, and harvest regulations. [New Online No-Cost Cobia Permits | Recreational Cobia Harvest Reporting using the SWJ | SWJ Mobile | For-Hire Cobia Harvest Reporting using CBOR | General Saltwater Fishing Regulations (scroll down for cobia info) | Cobia Regulation 4 VAC 20-510 | Paper Reporting Forms | Cobia Harvest Reporting FAQ]

May 2016

May 27, 2016:  The Lynnhaven River Oyster Work Group is scheduled to meet on June 2 and June 16, 2016 at the VMRC main office located at 2600 Washington Ave., Newport News, VA 23607, in the 4th Floor Commission meeting room, with each meeting beginning at 6:00 PM and ending at 9:00 PM. The group is also scheduled to meet on July 1, 2016 at the Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia beginning at 9:30 AM and ending at 12:00 noon. All meetings are open to the public.

May 24, 2016:
After a 4 ˝ hour debate, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission voted today to not close the recreational cobia season in June, as requested by the National Marine Fisheries Service following unexpectedly high catch rates last year that likely indicates overfishing of the Georgia through New York stock of cobia. The Commission did raise the size limit from 37 to 40 inches, kept a one-fish per person possession limit, instituted a two-fish daily vessel limit, allowing only one of those fish to be more than 50 inches, for all vessels including for-hire (charter and head boats). The Commission also voted prohibited the gaffing of cobia by recreational anglers. In addition, the Commission decided to close the fishery on August 30 and will begin a reporting system for recreational anglers to report their cobia catches to the agency. The Commission had been requested by the National Marine Fisheries Service to close the recreational cobia fishery on June 20 because federal data showed the Georgia-New York allowable recreational catch of cobia was greatly exceeded in 2015 and Virginia alone caught the entire coastal quota.   [Meeting Summary License Revocations]

May 20, 2016:
Lynnhaven River Oyster Work Group will meet at the Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia beginning at 9:30 AM until approximately 12:00 noon. The meeting is open to the public.

May 18, 2016:Effective 6:00 P.M., Eastern Daylight Savings Time, Wednesday, May 18, 2016, the commercial directed menhaden gill net fishery will close. [Notice]

May 17, 2016:Effective Sunset, Tuesday, May 17, 2016, the Virginia horseshoe crab commercial dredge gear fishery will close. [Notice]

May 11, 2016:  Landing limit reduction for the 2016 Virginia horseshoe crab dredge fishery effective 12:00 P.M. (noon) Wednesday, May 11, 2016 [Notice] and Closure of Virginia’s 2016 scup summer period [Notice]

May 6, 2016:  The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Coastal Sharks Management Board approved Draft Addendum IV to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Coastal Sharks for public comment. The purpose of the Draft Addendum is to maintain consistency between federal and state FMPs, where possible, and to better incorporate into state regulations the intent of the limited fins-attached exception for smooth dogfish in the Shark Conservation Act of 2010.   VMRC will not hold a public hearing on this addendum, but anyone can make recommendations by contacting Ashton Harp, Fishery Management Plan Coordinator, at 703.842.0740 or [ASMFC Press Release]

May 3, 2016: 
Effective Sunset, Wednesday, May 4, 2016, the Virginia horseshoe crab general category permit commercial fishery will close. [Closure Notice]

April 2016

April 26, 2016:  The Virginia Marine Resources Commission voted to hold a public hearing at the May 24, 2016 Commission meeting on the 2016 Cobia recreational fishery. The Commission proposes to amend Chapter 4 VAC 20-510-10 et seq., to establish amendments to this regulation, for the 2016 Virginia recreational cobia fishery, that include but are not limited to increases in the minimum size limit (currently 37 inches total length); establishment of a boat limit (currently there is no boat limit, but there is a one fish possession limit); establishment of variable fishing seasons; establishment of a prohibition on gaffing cobia; and, establishment of a closure of Virginia waters to recreational cobia harvest and possession, once federal waters are closed to recreational harvest and possession of cobia. [Meeting Summary]

April 15, 2016:
Lynnhaven River Oyster Workgroup information: At the January, 2016 Commission meeting a motion was approved to create a workgroup to study user conflict issues associated with aquaculture activities and other uses of the waters within the Lynnhaven River system.  Members were appointed by the VMRC Commissioner, John Bull and the first meeting was held on Friday, April 15, 2016 at the Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach.  This meeting was organizational in nature. After a brief introduction by the Commissioner and a brief statement from each workgroup member on their particular interest in the matter VMRC staff provided a brief history of leasing, how the program works and some current leasing statistics for the entire state of the Lynnhaven River system.  Questions were taken from the workgroup and the public. The group agreed to meet again in May and the proposed meeting dates, times and location will be posted on the Agency Meetings Calendar as soon as the date is set. [Presentation from the initial workgroup meeting

April 13, 2016:  VDH Emergency Shellfish Condemnation # 054-021G “Back River” has been rescinded effective April 13, 2016.  Sampling conducted by the Division of Shellfish Sanitation in Back River has determined those waters condemned by the emergency closure can safely be reopened. All waters have now returned to their prior classification.

April 12, 2016:
The Virginia Marine Resources Commission today released the results of the 2016 blue crab winter dredge survey, which shows another year of growth in the stock and forecasts an improved harvest in 2016.  The total population of blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay climbed 35 percent to a total of 553 million, and builds on last year’s 38 percent boost in abundance. The spawning female stock almost doubled, while the adult male stock more than doubled. These are the second highest levels recorded since 1995 and bode well for a good crab harvest this year. Still, this level of spawning age female crabs remains below the scientifically recommended target of 215 million. Juvenile abundance increased only slightly, and remains just above the average level of juveniles recorded over the past almost 30 years of the winter dredge survey. [Press Release]

April 7, 2016:
A public hearing on cobia fishery issues has been pushed back until the Commission’s May 24 meeting in order to provide additional time to conduct data analysis and other research on potential size limit and vessel limit changes, combined with regional management approaches with other states, that may extend the recreational cobia fishing season. Another Finfish Management Advisory Committee meeting will be held on April 18 to discuss new information that pertains to the cobia fishery and the pending June 20 closure of the cobia fishery in federal waters by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

April 5, 2016:
VDH announces emergency closure -- due to a sewage spill into Back River in the cities of Hampton and Poquoson, emergency Shellfish Closure # 054-021G “Back River” has been issued effective April 5, 2016 through April 26, 2016. The Division of Shellfish Sanitation will be conducting monitoring of seawater and shellfish to determine if the area can safely be opened sooner. Details may be found through a link available on the Division’s home page: []

April 2016: The Spring 2016 issue of the VMRC Fisheries newsletter covering recent and upcoming fisheries happenings is now available. [VMRC Fisheries newsletter]

March 2016

March 28, 2016: The Virginia trophy striped bass season starts in May; the permit for this fishery can now be obtained for 2016. In 2015, participants in the striper trophy fishery were for the first time required to obtain an annual, no-cost permit. This new permit was made available via a new online process. The new permitting process is very simple, and resulted in over 2,000 trophy permits being issued in 2015. Many of the anglers that obtained a permit in 2015, did so because it was easy and they thought there was a chance they may get a chance to fish. One of the purposes of the new permitting process is to gauge participation in the trophy fishery, so Commission staff would like to request that fishermen obtaining the 2016 permit have definite plans to fish for trophy striped bass, keeping in mind that in the Virginia Bay waters open for trophy striped bass, the fishery is very much an incidental fishery with low numbers of trophy fish available and caught. 2016 permittees, as in 2015, are also required to report if they fished or not, and for any fishing days, report their harvest or lack of harvest. The reporting process is done though the Commission's Saltwater Journal (SWJ) recreational fishing web site which requires anglers to have a SWJ login (past SWJ users can use the forgot password/retrieve username link on the main SWJ web site login page to re-establish their login to the SWJ). New in 2016 will be a SWJ mobile feature that will allow permittees to comply with harvest reporting requirements. Anglers that decide to apply for and get a 2016 trophy permit should use the web links below to obtain a permit, and review fishing regulations for the trophy striper fishery, as well as the reporting requirements for permittees. Failure to report in 2016 may prevent issuance of a permit in the 2017 trophy season, so please only obtain a 2016 permit if you intend to fish - keeping in mind too that the online permitting process just takes a few minutes, particularly if the angler was permitted in 2015 and remembers their unique VMRC ID that is printed on your 2015 permit.

[MRC Online No-Cost Permit Process | VMRC License Agent Locations | General Saltwater Fishing Regulations (scroll down for striper info) | Striper Regulation Summary Card | Trophy Striped Bass Harvest Reporting FAQ | Main SWJ Web Site | Forgot SWJ Password or Retrieve User Name | SWJ Mobile | Paper Reporting Form]

March 22, 2016: The Virginia Marine Resources Commission decided to hold a public hearing and a vote at its April meeting on potential cobia harvest reductions necessary because of a considerable increase in Virginia’s catch last year that resulted in a 240 percent overage in the coastal quota. The Commission discussed the issue for 2 ˝ hours and heard the input of recreational anglers and charter boat captains who urged the Commission to defy a federal order to close the cobia fishery on June 20. Virginia’s anglers caught 47 percent of all the cobia caught on the East Coast last year, which reflects both a significant increase in targeting of cobia in recent years and the number of fish caught by anglers. [Meeting Summary]

March 10, 2016: NMFS announces closure of the recreational cobia fishery in federal waters beginning June 20, 2016. The Commission will be considering options for cobia fishing in State waters in next two months. [Updated News on Cobia]

February 2016

February 26, 2016:  2016 Final specifications and opening notice for Virginia's offshore summer flounder fishery. [Notice]

February 25, 2016:
Upcoming date changes for 2016 Cobia season. [Updated News on Cobia]

February 23, 2016: 
The Virginia Marine Resources Commission today froze the issuance of new oyster gear licenses and expressed its support for establishing a limited public oyster fishery later this year. The Commission instructed staff to work with the shellfish advisory committee to consider options to reduce participation in this fishery. The number of participants in the public oyster fishery has grown substantially over the past three years and the stock is not large enough to support all the people who want to make a living harvesting oysters. In other action, the Commission revoked the fishing licenses and tidal fishing privileges of four individuals who were convicted in court of serious oyster violations. [Meeting Summary]

February 19, 2016: 
A new federal law regarding the inspection of both farmed and wild-caught catfish will go into effect on March 1, 2016. Filed under the name “Mandatory Inspection of Fish of the Order Siluriformes and Products Derived From Such Fish,” the federal law requires all processing and labeling of catfish of the order Siluriformes (which includes American species of catfish as well as some foreign species) be done under inspection by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). Exempt from such requirements will be catfish that are caught and directly delivered to restaurants or retailers without labeling the product.  [Notice]

January 2016

January 27, 2016: Effective Thursday, January 28, 2016, fishing vessels entering Virginia waters will be allowed to possess aboard, but not land, the legal North Carolina trip limit. [Notice]

January 26, 2016: The Virginia Marine Resources Commission voted today to take a seven-month pause in the processing or assigning of any new or appending shellfish leases in the Lynnhaven River or its tributaries in Virginia Beach, in order to seat a study panel to attempt to resolve user conflicts between shellfish industry practices, recreational boaters and waterfront property owners. In other action, the Commission revoked the licenses and tidal fishing privileges of eight commercial watermen after their court convictions for serious natural resources violations. [Meeting Summary]

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