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Publice Notice: Proposed Amendments of Various Regs for June 2006

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

In accordance with §28.2-209 of the Code of Virginia, a public hearing on the proposed amendment will be held at 12:00 Noon on Tuesday, June 27, 2006 at the 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, June 26, 2006.  Copies of the proposed amendments may be reviewed, at the Commission, Monday through Thursday (8:15 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.) and Friday (8:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.), and may be obtained by calling the Commission at (757) 247-2248.

Regulation 4 VAC 20-150-10 Et Seq., “Pertaining to the Dredging of Conchs (Also Known As Whelks)

On May 23, 2006 the Commission adopted Emergency amendments that:

1) allows the year-round harvest and possession of horseshoe crabs from Area 2 (that area east of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel that includes the area known as the mouth or entrance to the Chesapeake Bay) and Area 4 (that area bounded on the north by a line from buoy RN"36A" at the town of Cape Charles and running NNW to Wolf Trap Light, bounded on the west by a line drawn from Wolf Trap Light and running southerly through buoys RN"2", C"1NP", RN"2", C"1MB", RN"8", at the York River Entrance Channel; thence southeasterly bounded by the northern side of said channel to buoy R"2"; thence southerly to buoy RW"HC"; thence southwesterly to buoy G"11" at Thimble Shoal Channel; thence bounded on the south by the south side of said channel until its intersection with the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel; thence bounded on the east by the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and a line drawn from the terminus of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel on Fishermans Island back to buoy RN"36A" but remaining offshore of any and all fixed fishing devices).  Previous to this emergency amendment, the prohibition on the harvest and possession of horseshoe crabs extended from April 1 through September 30, for Area 2 and May 1 through September 30, for Area 4.
2) ) allows the year-round harvest and possession of horseshoe crabs from Area 3 (that area bounded on the north by 36? 45' N Latitude, bounded on the west by mean low water, bounded on the south by the Virginia-North Carolina border, and bounded on the east by the Three Nautical Mile Line) and Area Number 5 (this area is in two parts, with the south part as that area in Virginia's portion of the Territorial Sea between 36? 55' N Latitude and 36? 45' N Latitude excluding the inshore one mile and the north part as that area between the Virginia-Maryland line and Cape Charles Lighthouse and comprising Virginia's portion of the Territorial Sea off of Accomack and Northampton Counties).

     Prior to this emergency amendment, it was unlawful to harvest, take or possess horseshoe crabs, from May 1 through June 7 in Areas 3 or 5.  The Commission proposes to make these amendments a permanent part of Regulation 4 VAC 20-150-10 et seq.  The purpose of these amendments is to better utilize the Virginia commercial horseshoe crab quota.

Regulation 4 VAC 20-900-10 Et Seq., “Pertaining to Horseshoe Crab”

The Commission proposes to establish a prohibition on the landing of horseshoe crabs in Virginia from federal waters (EEZ), from January 1 through June 7, in any year; and a division of Virginia’s quota (152,495 horseshoe crabs), such that not more than 40% may be harvested east of the COLREGS Line, and these landings must be comprised, at a minimum, of a male to female ratio of 2:1.  These measures are required by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) and must be implemented by Virginia to maintain compliance with this Interstate Plan.

The Commission also proposes a recision of subsections 4 VAC 20-900-25 D and E that establish an 85% to 15% allocation between harvesters who hold a valid Horseshoe Crab Endorsement License (HCEL) and harvesters who only land by-catch of horseshoe crabs.  This recision is necessary because there are now two categories of HCELs, allowed horseshoe crab by-catch recently was increased and the ASMFC mandates, described above will drastically alter the traditional harvest and landing characteristics of this fishery, such that an 85% to 15% allocation scheme is untenable.

Regulation 4 VAC 20-252-10 Et Seq., “Pertaining to the Taking of Striped Bass”

The Commission proposes to provide an exemption to slot limit or season requirements to recreational striped bass fishing tournaments, provided the tournament meets the following criteria:
1) The tournament operates for a limited duration, with a maximum of 3 days; 2) The tournament format provides for the live release of  all fish; 3) The tournament director submits a written proposal to the Commissioner detailing the measures the tournament will use to ensure the survivability of fish entered in the tournament, to include capture, handling and storage of fish by tournament entrants on the water during the competition, by tournament  officials at the weigh-in, by tournament officials when transporting and returning the fish to the water, and any penalties that will apply to entrants bringing in or weighing dead fish.  Such proposal must be submitted no later than 120 days prior to the tournament, and the proposal must be determined, by the Commissioner,  to adequately address potential mortality issues;  4) Tournament officials must agree to provide any or all fish entered in the tournament to the Marine Resources Commission, or to any designee of the Marine Resources Commission, upon written request; 5) Tournament officials agree to allow Marine Resources Commission staff access to all tournament areas during the event, for the purposes of observation and assessment, upon request; and, 6) Its approval does not jeopardize the status of the striped bass stock or prove to be an issue of compliance with the interstate fishery management plan.



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