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Publice Notice: Proposed Amendments to Regulations, March 2007

NOTICE

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission invites public comment on the proposals listed below. In accordance with §28.2-209 of the Code of Virginia, a public hearing, on all the proposals outlined below, will be held at 12:00 Noon on Tuesday, March 27, 2007 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, March 26, 2007.  Copies of the proposed amendments 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.

On February 27, 2007, the Marine Resources Commission adopted, under its emergency regulatory authority (Section 28.2-210 of The Code of Virginia), amendments to the regulations listed below. The Commission now proposes to make those emergency amendments permanent parts of Regulation 4 VAC 20-270-10 et seq. and 4 VAC 20-300-10 et seq., at its March 27, 2007 meeting.

Regulation 4 VAC 20-270-10 et seq., “Pertaining to Crabbing”

The proposed amendment extends the lawful crab pot and peeler pot harvest season, from March 17 through November 30.  The current lawful harvest season is April 1 through November 30.  A second amendment establishes a daily time limit of 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. for these proposed, additional lawful days (March 17 through March 31) of the crab pot and peeler pot harvest season. A third amendment makes it unlawful for any person knowingly to place, set, or fish or leave any fish pot in any tidal waters during the March 12 through March 16 period, except in defined upriver areas.

Regulation 4 VAC 20-300-10 et seq., “Pertaining to Crab Catch Limits”  

The proposed amendment extends to the period of March 17 through May 31 the requirement that no boat or vessel shall take or catch by crab pot, or have in possession, more than fifty-one (5l) bushels or seventeen (l7) barrels of crabs in any one day.  Currently, this possession limit extends from April 1 through May 31.

Regulation 4 VAC 20-370-10 Et Seq., “Pertaining to the Culling of Crabs

The Commission proposes to repeal the prohibition on harvest and possession of dark (any shade of brown through black coloration) sponge crabs. Recent field studies by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) suggest that high percentages of female sponge crabs do not survive the harvest and culling process.  This evidence suggests that the regulation does not result in the intended direct conservation of spawning female crabs and their offspring.

Regulation 4 VAC 20-752-10 Et Seq., “Pertaining to the Blue Crab Sanctuaries”

The Commission proposes an expansion of the existing crab sanctuaries, by establishing a new sanctuary in an area that extends out to the 3-Mile Limit Line, from off the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay thence southward along the Virginia Beach coast to the Virginia–North Carolina Line.  While there are very few harvester reports of crabbing in this area during the current time period of the crab sanctuary, June 1 through September 15, a lifting of the sponge crab prohibition could result in new crabbing effort in the area. VIMS staff and the Blue Crab Management Advisory Committee have identified this area as one that contains large numbers of sponge crabs.  

Regulation 4 VAC 20-450-10 Et Seq., “Pertaining to the Taking of Bluefish”

The Commission proposes to establish the 2007 commercial bluefish quota as 1,018,660 pounds.

Regulation 4 VAC 20-950-10 Et Seq., “Pertaining to Black Sea Bass”

On March 27, 2007, the Marine Resources Commission will consider alternate methods for allocation of the 2007 commercial harvest quota between the directed and by-catch fisheries. The Commission proposes to redistribute portions of the hardship set-aside quota, the bycatch fishery quota, and the directed fishery quota.  The purpose of considering alternative methods is to respond to industry concerns about the 2007 reduction in the coast-wide black sea bass quota and its consequent impacts to harvesters.  

Regulation 4 VAC 20-670-10 Et Seq., “Pertaining to Recreational Gear Licenses” and Regulation 4 VAC 20-430-10 Et Seq., “Pertaining to the Marking and Minimum Mesh Size of Gill Nets”

Currently, it is unlawful for any person to use any gill net greater than 300 feet, in length, when licensed for recreational purposes and the licensee shall stay within 100 yards of such net, when it is overboard.  The Commission proposes to modify these gear restrictions, in areas above the saltwater – freshwater license boundaries on the James, York and Rappahannock rivers, as follows:
1) Maximum anchored gill net lengths shall be 100 feet;

2) Soak time of anchored gill net shall be limited to one hour;

3) As currently, any gill net must be attended, within 100 yards; however, any unattended gill net shall be confiscated.

The Commission also proposes to repeal the marking requirements for anchored gill nets licensed for recreational purposes, in the designated areas and require the ends of these nets to be marked with floating buoys of at least 3 1/2” diameter and be of blaze-orange color.

The saltwater – freshwater boundary lines are as follows:

James River:  A line connecting Hog Point and the downstream point of the mouth of College Creek;
    
York River:  The Route 33 Bridges; and
    
Rappahannock River:  The Route 360 Bridge.

Planned Construction of a new Artificial Recreational Fishing Reef:

The Commission proposes to construct an artificial fishing reef at the following location:

BLUEFISH ROCK

The reef is to be located in the Chesapeake Bay, centered 3.2 nautical miles E.S.E. of the Grand View section of Hampton, Virginia, in 20-22 feet of water (ML).  The requested site is square in configuration, measuring 1,450 yards on each side.  The corner points of the proposed area are as follows:
                                           
              NW 37-04.000 N; 76-13.100 W        NE 37-04.000 N; 76 12.200 W
              SW 37-03.300 N; 76-13.100 W         SE  37-03.300 N; 76-12.200 W

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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 BRANDY BATTLE (757) 247-2248 NO LATER THAN FIVE WORK DAYS PRIOR TO THE MEETING DATE AND IDENTIFY YOUR NEEDS.

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