Agency News

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

June 2020

June 4, 2020: the Secretary of Commerce has notified Virginia and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Committee that Virginia had come into compliance and the menhaden fishery moratorium scheduled to start June 17, 2020 has been lifted. [Press Release]

VMRC has updated our guidelines for the Charter for Hire industry operations during COVID-19 for Phase II reopening. The updated version clarifies VMRC authorities and removes the specific boat size capacity restrictions and shelter-in-place family allowance. For-hire and head boat capacity is limited to the number of people who can socially distance on board, regardless if they have sheltered-in-place together or not. Each passenger must be six feet away from the next passenger. If you have further questions, please email  fisheries@mrc.virginia.gov. [Revised Charter Fishing Operating Guidelines 06/05/2020]

June 3, 2020: Fish On! Free Fishing Days Established for Recreational Fishing in Virginia Saltwater areas for June 5-7, 2020. If you've always wanted to try fishing, now is your chance! You may recreationally fish without a license again this year, during the first full weekend in June. Take advantage of the free fishing days, June 5, 6, and 7, 2020, and enjoy the great outdoors with your family and friends without having to spend money for a fishing license. [Press Release]

June 1, 2020: Last day to complete your COVID-19 fisheries disaster relief survey ! [Survey Announcement  |  Click here to Complete Your Fisheries Disaster Relief Survey]

May 2020

May 28, 2020:  Updated guidelines for charter fishing vessels and procedures for oyster lease renewals/transfers/applications during the COVID-19 pandemic office closure have been posted on the COVID-19 information page.

May 27, 2020:  the Virginia Marine Resources Commission announces Matthew Rogers of Smithfield, Virginia as the Chief of Law Enforcement Division of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. [Press Release]

May 26, 2020:  Results of the May 26th Commission electronic meeting have been posted. [Commission Results]

May 22, 2020: the May Commission meeting being held next Tuesday will be an electronic only meeting. Please refer to the agency web calendar for the meeting agenda and public participation instructions, and other materials related to the meeting. [Calendar]

The Survey Monkey site used for the VMRC COVID-19 disaster relief survey released this week will be down tomorrow (Saturday) 12 pm to 8pm for maintenance. Survey responses can be provided through June 1. [Survey Announcement  |  Fisheries Disaster Relief Survey]

May 20, 2020:  the Virginia Marine Resources Commission released the results of the 2019 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey, which shows the blue crab population in Chesapeake Bay remains resilient and within healthy ranges. [Press Release]

May 19, 2020:  The Commission has released a survey to help the agency determine priorities and ensure that VMRC is making the best use of the limited NOAA fisheries disaster relief funds.  Marine fisheries participants, as outlined in the survey, should respond to the survey by June 1, 2020. [Survey Announcement  |  Fisheries Disaster Relief Survey]

May 12, 2020: COVID-19 fisheries disaster relief program information has been posted. [Disaster Relief Information Page Press Release]

The Crab Management Advisory Committee (CMAC) will meet electronically at 4:00 PM on May 21, 2020 to discuss the results of the 2019/2020 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey. Please see the Commission Calendar (https://www.mrc.virginia.gov/calendar.shtm) for public participation information and an access link to be used at the meeting time.

The public notice and tentative agenda for the electronic-only May Commission meeting has been posted. [Public Notice | Tentative Agenda]

May 8, 2020: Effective May 15th and per the authority in the Governor's Executive Orders 53 and 55, Charter Fishing Vessels are allowed to resume operation under the following rules. These rules were developed with input from the industry and guidance from the CDC. These guidelines will remain in effect until further notice from VMRC. We will continue to work with the Governor's office to decide when to ease these guidelines. If you have any additional questions please email fisheries@mrc.virginia.gov.  [Charter Fishing Reopen Rules]

April 2020

April 30, 2020:  Commercial Fishermen, the license renewal deadline of April 30th has been extended until further notice during the MRC's COVID-19 office closure. Once the offices re-open their will be a grace period before 2020 licenses will be required. Visit our COVID-19 Information Page for more updates on interim procedures for commercial fishermen during MRC's COVID-19 office closure. [COVID-19 Information Page]

April 29, 2020:  Interim procedures regarding priority rights in regards to crab traps and pounds, offshore summer flounder fishery season extension, and Charter Captains and expired Merchant Mariner Credentials have been posted on the agency COVID-19 Information Page.

April 28, 2020:  At today's Commission Meeting, the Commission voted unanimously to approve amendments to Chapter 4 VAC 20-1270-10 et seq., "Pertaining to Atlantic Menhaden," for the VMRC to accept management authority from the Virginia's General Assembly, to be in compliance with the ASMFC's Atlantic Menhaden Fishery Management Plan, and to avoid a statewide moratorium of the fishery effective June 17, 2020. [Commission Results | Press Release]

April 27, 2020:  Virginia Announces the Recreational Black Sea Bass Season - the Virginia Marine Resources Commission is extending the recreational black sea bass season in 4 VAC 20-950-45 to be open from May 29 to December 31. This closes the regular May 15 to December 31 season for 14 days to account for 14,236 pounds of black sea bass landed during the February recreational season. All other regulations pertaining to the recreational black sea bass fishery remain in effect. This action is pursuant to the authority afforded to the Commissioner by the Governor's Executive Order 51(C) and in agreement with the Secretary of Natural Resources.

April 23, 2020:  Public participation instructions for next week's April 28th electronic Commission meeting have been posted on the web calendar. [Calendar]

April 20, 2020: At 4:00 p.m., the Menhaden Management Advisory Committee (MMAC) will hold a special, electronic-only meeting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of the committee is to provide guidance to the VMRC on the sustainable management of the menhaden resource and harvest of the bait and reduction fisheries in the waters of the Commonwealth, including the Chesapeake Bay. Since the meeting will be electronic only, please check back on the Commission's calendar web page on the day of meeting to get public participation information. Calendar link to: https://www.mrc.virginia.gov/calendar.shtm

April 13, 2020:  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the April 28, 2020 Commission meeting will be an electronic only meeting and will only consider a single fisheries agenda item concerning menhaden fishery management and a single habitat permit item. The meeting will be electronic only, so please check back on the Commission's calendar web page on the day of meeting to get public participation information. [Calendar Page | Notice | Draft Menhaden Regulation]

April 7, 2020: interim procedures regarding commercial striped bass and tautog tags have been posted on the agency COVID-19 Information Page.

April 3, 2020: Membership of the newly formed Menhaden Management Advisory Committee (MMAC) has been finalized. The purpose of the committee is to provide guidance to the VMRC on the sustainable management of the menhaden resource and harvest of the bait and reduction fisheries in the waters of the Commonwealth, including the Chesapeake Bay. The Commissioner extends his thanks to all applicants to the committee for their interest in assisting with the management of the menhaden fishery in Virginia. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic the first MMAC meeting has not yet been scheduled. [MMAC Membership]

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council is soliciting public input on an amendment to address revisions to the Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish fishery management plan goals and objectives, as well as modifications to Illex fishery permitting. A webinar-based public hearing will be held on Monday April 13th at 6:00 pm for the southern region. Written comments will be accepted through April 20, 2020. All information regarding the public hearings and written comments can be found here: [MAFMC Notice]

April 2, 2020:  Charter boat and party boat operations are hereby declared non-essential businesses. This decision has been made based on the directives contained in the Governor's Executive orders pertaining to social distancing and limitations of the number of people that may be onboard. In addition, a person undertaking a charter or party trip is making a discretionary decision that unnecessarily exposes the customer and the employees to the potential of contamination. Therefore, charter and party operations are prohibited until the Executive Orders expire on June 10, 2020.

The recreational cobia season starts June 1, 2020. Please visit the following web page for information on permitting and reporting for the 2020 season. [Recreational Cobia Fishing]

April 1, 2020: Commercial fishermen and other maritime industry workers affected by COVID-19 pandemic should visit the Virginia Employment Commission website to file a claim for unemployment insurance benefits. [VEC]

March 2020

March 31, 2020: Boating and Executive Order 55:  The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) remind all Virginians to follow the directive of the Governor's recently-released Executive Order 55 while enjoying the outdoors, whether on land or water. The Executive Order permits continued engagement in outdoor activities that can be beneficial to us all, while including safeguards that are necessary for the protection of yourself and the public. While enjoying time in or around the water or on public recreational lands, always maintain adequate social distancing of at least six feet from other individuals who are not family, household members, or caretakers at all times. You should also follow the prohibition of gatherings of 10 or more individuals which includes:

      - When present at access points for fishing or boating, whether state or locally-owned;
      - The beaching of vessels on sandbars, islands or banks while out on the water;
      - The "rafting" of vessels together; and the numbers of individuals present on any vessel.
      - When present at outdoor recreation lands, including Wildlife Management Areas.

DGIF and VMRC want the outdoors to be a place of safe escape for you during this difficult time, and our ability to continue to promote this depends upon your assistance. The basic precautions contained in the Executive Order are necessary to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Virginia and protect everyone's safety. DGIF's Conservation Police Officers and VMRC's Marine Police Officers will be monitoring our water access points and activities on the water and our lands to ensure compliance with the Executive Order, address problem areas, and to promote your well-being. Please do your part to help protect yourself and other Virginians and keep our outdoors available and safe to all of us.

March 30, 2020: Virginia Extends Offshore Summer Flounder Fishery until April 30, 2020. Pursuant to the authority afforded to the Commissioner by the Governor's Executive Order 51( C) and in agreement with the Secretary of Natural Resources, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission is waiving the listed dates in 4 VAC 20-620-40 C. The offshore directed summer flounder fishery will remain open until midnight Thursday, April 30, 2020. All other regulations pertaining to the summer flounder fishery remain in effect. [Notice]

March 23, 2020:  Kitty Hawk Offshore Wind project has announced an upcoming deployment of a new metbuoy and offshore survey work within and near the Kitty Hawk Offshore wind lease area. [Notice]

March 17, 2020: Click on the following link for important interim procedures for commercial fishermen and JPA Permit Holders and Applicants during VMRC's COVID-19 office closure [VMRC COVID-19 Interim Procedures]

March 16, 2020: the VMRC main office on Ft. Monroe and other agency field offices are closed until further notice per Governor Northam's closure of all State facilities in the Peninsula Health District as a result of a small cluster of COVID-19 cases on the Peninsula. Next week's Commission meeting scheduled for March 24, 2020 has been cancelled. The Commission's Marine Police Operations Center will remain open for emergency services only, and Marine Police Officers will remain in the field. Citizens are encouraged to use the Agency's toll free number, 800-541-4646, to report emergencies, boating accidents and marine resource violations.  For additional information visit the Governor's COVID-19 web page. [Virginia COVID-19 Updates]

March 13, 2020:  the blue crab season starts next Tuesday, March 17, for commercial crab and peeler pots and two recreational crab pots. The season for all other commercial crab gears will open Wednesday, April 1 and the season for the recreational five pot license opens June 1. If you're catching blue crabs recreationally, check out the VMRC's new recreational crabbing page for more information on licensing, seasons, size limits, possession limits, sponge crabs, and gear restrictions. For an index of commercial crab regulations, see here.

March 11, 2020:  VMRC seeks participants for its new Menhaden Management Advisory Committee (MMAC): The Virginia Marine Resources Commission is seeking individuals with knowledge of the menhaden resource to participate in it new Menhaden Management Advisory Committee. The purpose of the committee is to provide guidance to the VMRC on the sustainable management of the menhaden resource and harvest of the bait and reduction fisheries in the waters of the Commonwealth, including the Chesapeake Bay. Per the Code of Virginia, the Committee shall consist of nonlegislative citizen members who are residents of the Commonwealth and will be appointed by the Commissioner. Representation will include one person from each of the following: 1) the menhaden reduction fishery; 2) the menhaden bait fishery; 3) a labor organization involved in the menhaden fishery; 4) a recreational angler; 5) a member of a Virginia-based conservation organization; 6) the sportfishing industry; and 7) the Virginia appointee to the Atlantic Menhaden Technical Committee of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Up to five at-large seats may be appointed at the discretion of the Commissioner.

Applications are available at [MMAC Membership Application]. Applications and inquiries should be sent to fisheries@mrc.virginia.gov (Attn: MMAC in the subject header). Deadline for applications is close of business on March 27th.

March 4, 2020: REMINDER FOR COMMERCIAL SPECKLED TROUT HARVESTERS AND BUYERS: Effective 6:00 P.M., Wednesday, October 16, 2019, the 2019/2020 Virginia commercial speckled trout fishery has closed, and will remain closed until September 1, 2020. Based upon landing reports from Virginia seafood buyers and speckled trout harvesters, Virginia has harvested and landed 100% of the 51,104 pound quota. [Notice]

March 2, 2020: VMRC will be hosting public scoping hearings for ASMFC and MAFMC at 5 PM and 6 PM at the VMRC Main Office. At 5 PM, ASMFC staff will present information on the Summer Flounder, Black Sea Bass, and Scup Commercial/Recreational Allocation Amendment. At 6 PM, VMRC staff will present information on the Bluefish Allocation and Rebuilding Amendment. Supplemental  below. Comments may be submitted at the public hearings or online at these links [ASMFC SFSBSB Comments | MAFMC Bluefish Comments].  Scoping and Public Information Documents can be found at the preceding comments links. For more information, contact Chief of Fisheries Pat Geer at Pat.Geer@mrc.virginia.gov.

February 2020

February 27, 2020: The procedure for obtaining a Shellfish Icing Permit during Warm Water Harvest has changed. See [Notice]

February 25, 2020: The results of today's Commission meeting have been posted. [Meeting Summary]

As of Tuesday February 18, 2020, 80% of Virginia's 2019/2020 commercial spiny dogfish quota has been landed. Chapter 4VAC 20-490-46, states that when it has been projected and announced by the Marine Resources Commission that 80% of the Virginia spiny dogfish quota has been landed, each Virginia seafood buyer shall call the Marine Resources Commission's interactive voice recording system on a daily basis to report the exact weight of spiny dogfish received or purchased, in pounds. If you are a federal dealer that purchases spiny dogfish, you can meet this reporting requirement by calling 757-552-6413. [Notice]

January 2020

January 30, 2020:  The Virginia Department of Health, Division of Shellfish Safety announces the issuance of Emergency Shellfish Condemnation # 046-081B "West of Allens Island" in the York River effective Thursday January 30, 2020 through Wednesday February 19, 2020. This is a separate from Emergency Closure # 046-081A "Allens Island" also in the York River that was effective January 24, 2020. This closure is a result of notification of a Norovirus Outbreak in Central Virginia with an epidemiological link to shellfish harvested from a private lease located in this area. These waters are scheduled to reopen on Thursday February 20, 2020. Please direct any questions to Division of Shellfish Safety Central Office staff at 804-864-7480. [VDH Notice]

January 29, 2020: Effective 12:01 A.M., Monday, February 24, 2020, the Directed Virginia Offshore Summer Flounder Fishery will open for vessels with a Virginia Summer Flounder Endorsement License. The landing limit for the Offshore (EEZ) Fishery from February 24 through March 31, 2020 is 12,500 pounds. Vessels may land a maximum of 12,500 pounds for the entire period of February 24 through March 31, 2020. [Notice]

January 29, 2020: VMRC staff member Vernon "Brody" Rowe, and former VMRC staff member, Vas Dunstan, were awarded Certificates of Valor by the USCG for their heroic, lifesaving actions during an July 2018 boating accident on the James River. Mr. Rowe and Mr. Dunstan worked together to assist and revive an unconscious and drowning passenger of recreational boat that had collided with a commercial barge, and were credited with saving the boaters life. For other results of yesterday's Commission meeting click on the following link. [Meeting Summary]

January 28, 2020: Fish on! The 2020 February recreational black sea bass fishing season will start February 1st and end on February 29th, 2020. We want to remind all anglers that a recreational black sea bass permit is required ONLY for the captain or operator of the vessel and that it is their responsibility to report all trips taken and black sea bass caught or released during the 2020 February recreational black sea bass season. For more details, see the following link. [Notice]

January 27, 2020:  ATTENTION shellfish harvesters working in vicinity of VDH condemned areas: beginning in 2017, the Commission made available a mobile app that uses smartphone GPS to show the phone users position relative to shellfish leases and other map features, including condemnation zones provided by VDH. If you are user of the VMRC map app please be advised that the app while designed to update map information regularly may not automatically update on all models of mobile devices. If you are using the app to determine condemned areas relative to open harvest areas please make sure the VMRC map app on your phone is up to date and properly displaying the condemnation zones. One place to check is under the app's Open Oyster Harvest Area menu option, you should see open harvest areas (in olive green) and VDH condemnation zones (in light purple). If you are not seeing the condemnation zones properly please reinstall the app or use the "Download Map Overlays" feature under the App Options menu choice. The app is available from the Apple or Google app stores, search for "VMRC Maps" on your smartphone to install. As all harvesters are already aware, it is critical that shellfish not be harvested in areas closed by MRC or VDH. It is the harvester's responsibility to always be aware of MRC and VDH closures and make responsible use of online web and web map tools to ensure they work only in areas open to harvest and not closed due to VDH condemnations. Note that the "VDH Shellfish Safety Notifications" web page is the best place to view the most up to date VDH closure information. Please use the following links to learn more about online map resources to help you determine open harvest areas and areas closed by VDH. [VDH Shellfish Safety Notifications | VDH Web Map | VMRC Map App | MRC Web Map]

January 24, 2020: 
The Virginia Department of Health, Division of Shellfish Safety announces the issuance of Emergency Shellfish Condemnation # 046-081A "Allens Island" in the York River near the mouth of the Perrin River effective Friday January 24, 2020 through Thursday February 13, 2020. This closure is a result of notification of a Norovirus Outbreak in Central Virginia with an epidemiological link to shellfish harvested from a private lease located in this area. These waters are scheduled to reopen on Friday February 14, 2020. Please direct any questions to Division of Shellfish Safety Central Office staff at 804-864-7480. [VDH Notice]

January 13, 2020:
Avangrid Renewables, the developer of the Kitty Hawk Offshore Wind Project has posted their Fisheries Communications Plan.

January 11, 2020:
 
Out of an abundance of caution and in consultation with FDA, the Division of Shellfish Safety announces emergency closure # 031-102A "Parrott Island" in the Rappahannock River has been reissued extending the closed period from Saturday January 11, 2020 through Wednesday January 15, 2020. Click on the emergency closure referenced on the Division's home page at www.vdh.virginia.gov/shellfish. These waters are scheduled to reopen on Thursday January 16, 2020. Please direct any questions to Division of Shellfish Safety Central Office staff at 804-864-7480.

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