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Publice Notice: Proposed Amendments to Regulations, April 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, April 24, 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, April 23, 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.

Regulation 4 VAC 20-490-10 et seq., “Pertaining to Sharks”

The proposed amendment establishes a new commercial catch limits of 3,000 pounds for spiny dogfish from May 1, 2007 through April 30, 2008.  The current lawful commercial catch limit is 600 pounds of spiny dogfish per day, from May 1 through October 30, and 4,000 pounds of spiny dogfish per day, from November 1, 2006 through April 30, 2007.  This amendment is in response to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Spiny Dogfish Fishery Management Plan specifications for 2007-08.

Proposed Regulation of Sheepshead

On April 24, 2007, the Marine Resources Commission will consider proposals establishing conservation measures for Sheepshead.  Proposed regulations will include a 4-fish recreational possession limit and a commercial hook-and-line possession limit of 500 pounds. Alternative possession limits, both greater and lesser in amount, will be considered by the Commission.  The purpose of the proposals is to limit expansion of the commercial fishery and to maintain a trophy recreational fishery for sheepshead.  

Proposed Regulation of Tilefish and Grouper

On April 24, 2007, the Marine Resources Commission will consider proposals establishing conservation measures for tilefish and groupers.  Proposed regulations will include:

1) A staff proposal that would establish a maximum recreational possession limit of ten fish per person per day for tilefish, and one fish per person per day for grouper, and a maximum commercial possession limit of 300 pounds per vessel per day for tilefish and 175 pounds per vessel per day for grouper. No transfers at sea shall be allowed.

2) A recommendation by the Finfish Management Advisory Committee to establish a maximum recreational possession limit of twelve fish per person per day for tilefish, and three fish per person per day for grouper, and a maximum commercial possession limit of 300 pounds per person per day for tilefish and 175 pounds per person per day for grouper, with no more than two licensed fisherman harvesting per vessel commercially.  

3) Possession limits similar to those currently administered by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council that are more restrictive than those proposed above,  as follows:
Five (5) groupers per person include:
*Black, *Gag, Misty, Red, Scamp, ***Snowy, **Speckled Hind, Tiger, **Warsaw, Yellowedge, Yellowfin, Yellowmouth Groupers, and also includes Blueline Tilefish, ***Golden Tilefish, Sand Tilefish, Coney, Graysby, Red & Rock Hind.                  
    * No more than 2 may be gag or black grouper, individually or in combination
      ** 1 per vessel per trip.  May not be sold or traded; no transfer at sea
      *** No more than 1 fish may be snowy grouper
      *** No more than 1 fish may be golden tilefish

Goliath Grouper - Closed to harvest or possession
Nassau Grouper - Closed to harvest or possession
Wreckfish - Only ITQ shareholders or their designees may harvest or possess wreckfish

Regulation 4 VAC 20-900-10 et seq., “Pertaining to Horseshoe Crab”

The Commission proposes to establish a definition for male horseshoe crabs.  The current regulation requires all harvest of horseshoe crabs from east of the COLREGS Line be in a ratio of no more than one female horseshoe crab to at least two male horseshoe crabs, and this amendment will aid in identification and enforcement.  A second amendment is proposed to establish a horseshoe crab buyer’s permit for licensed seafood buyers and a monthly reporting system, to include a call-in provision, once 85% of the quota has been projected to have been harvested.

Regulation 4 VAC 20-890-10 et seq., “Pertaining to Channeled Whelk”

The Commission proposes to repeal the provision that limits the use of horseshoe crabs as bait to no more than one-half of a female crab or two halves of a male crab in any one conch pot.  A second amendment is proposed to modify the definition of a bait bag by limiting its mesh, slat openings to no greater than three-eights of an inch in one dimension, either width or length.  A third amendment is proposed to establish a channeled whelk buyer’s permit and monthly reporting system for licensed seafood buyers that buy channeled whelk directly from the harvester.
The Commission also proposes to modify the current universal possession and landing limit of 60 bushels per vessel and establish a possession and landing limits for channeled whelk that shall be the lesser of 120 bushels, per vessel, or an amount equal to the number of persons on board, licensed to harvest channeled whelk from Virginia waters, multiplied by 60 bushels

The purpose of this amendment is to promote efficiency in the utilization of the channeled whelk resource and to conserve the use of horseshoe crabs as bait in this fishery.

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.  

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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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