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Public Notice: Proposed Regulations, May 2009

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission invites public comment on the proposed regulations listed below.

In accordance with Section 28.2-209 of the Code of Virginia, a public hearing on the proposed regulations will be held at 12:00 Noon, on Tuesday, May 26, 2009, at the Virginia 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, May 25, 2009.  Copies of the proposed regulations 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.

1). Establish 2009 regulations for the commercial and recreational harvest of blue crabs.
Amendments to the following regulations are proposed: 

Chapter 4 VAC 20-270-10 et seq., "Pertaining to Crabbing"
Chapter 4 VAC 20-300-10 et seq., "Pertaining to Crab Catch Limits"
Chapter 4 VAC 20-610-10 et seq., "Pertaining to Commercial Fishing and Mandatory Reporting"
Chapter 4 VAC 20-670-10 et seq., "Pertaining to Recreational Gear Licenses"
Chapter 4 VAC 20-752-10 et seq., "Pertaining to the Blue Crab Sanctuaries"
Chapter 4 VAC 20-880-10 et seq., "Pertaining to Hard Crab Pot Limits"
Chapter 4 VAC 20-1040-10 et seq., "Pertaining to Crabbing Licenses"
Chapter 4 VAC 20-1090-10 et seq., "Pertaining to Licensing Requirements and License Fees"
Chapter 4 VAC 20-1140-10 et seq., "Prohibition of Crab Dredging in Virginia Waters"
Chapter 4 VAC 20-1210-10 et seq., "Pertaining to a Blue Crab Sanctuary"

The purpose of these proposed amendments is to ensure that total harvests of crabs do not exceed 46 percent of the population, in 2009. Additionally, since production of new crabs has been especially low the last three years, and these late-winter, early-spring "recruits" are exploited by the fisheries in fall and represent an important portion of the following year's spawning crabs, the proposed measures are also designed to conserve sufficient recruits, in order to maintain the spawning population of blue crabs at the interim target of 200 million crabs.

The Commission intends to implement crab management measures designed to achieve equivalent conservation, as established for the 2008 blue crab fisheries, to promote a harvest that is at or near the 46 percent annual harvest rate and to provide the crab stock an opportunity, in 2010, to again achieve an interim abundance level of at least 200 million potential spawning crabs. 

In addition to maintaining several conservation measures implemented in 2008, the Commission proposes to consider additional and alternative blue crab conservation measures that will avoid over-harvest and depletion of the spawning stock, as shown below:

1) Closed seasons, bushel limits and combinations of closed seasons and bushel limits, for any dates within the June 1 through November 30 period, to conserve female crabs. Bushel limits may be established for each crab pot license category.

2) Increase the allowable crab pot limits, in 2009, so that crab pot limits, for any license category, would be reduced by up to 15 to 20 percent of the 2007 allowable limits. Currently, the pot limits are established as 30 percent less than the 2007 limits.

3) Establish a September 16 through November 30 prohibition on the harvest of female crabs, within any of the blue crab spawning sanctuary areas. Shorter time periods, for this prohibition, may also be considered.

4) Modify the requirements and responsibilities for authorized agents using crab gear. Currently, an agent that receives a crab fishing violation is subject only to court-imposed findings and penalties. The Commission proposes that any agent convicted by a court of two crab fishery violations, within a 12-month period, shall be precluded from serving as an agent, for at least one year subsequent to that second conviction. The Commission also proposes that the licensee, who has authorized an agent who is convicted by a court of two crab fishery-related violations, within a 12-month period, shall appear before the Commission, for a license-revocation hearing.

5) A closure of the crab dredge season from December 1, 2009 through March 31, 2010. 

6) Reconsider the current provision of the regulation that would reinstate the sale of a 5-pot recreational crab pot license, once an interim abundance target of 200 million age 1 and older crabs has been achieved. That target has been met, but the Crab Management Advisory Committee recommends that the interim target should be maintained for three successive years because that standard applies for allowing those commercial fishermen currently on a waiting list and ineligible for a crab fishery license, to be considered for re-entry to the fishery. The Commission will also consider other options, including bushel limits, crab pot limits of 4 pots or 3 pots, and closed season dates that shall apply to this recreational fishery.

7) Establish a June 9, 2009 deadline, for the submission of an appeal, by any person whose crab pot or peeler pot license has been placed on the waiting list, in accordance with Regulation 4 VAC 20-1040-10 et seq. "Pertaining to Crabbing Licenses". 

2). Chapter 4VAC20-450-et seq. "Pertaining to the Taking of Bluefish". 

The Commission proposes to amend Regulation 4 VAC 20-450-10 Et Seq., "Pertaining to the Taking of Bluefish" to establish the commercial bluefish quota, for 2009, as 1,155,945 pounds. 

3). Chapter 4VAC20-320-et seq. "Pertaining to the Taking of Black Drum".

The Commission will consider a proposal providing the Commissioner, or his designee, the authority to grant exceptions and transfer requests based on VMRC Regulation 4 VAC 20-320-70A.

4). Chapter 4VAC20-1120-et seq. "Pertaining to the Tilefish and Groupers".

The Commission will consider proposals establishing additional conservation measures for tilefish and groupers. These measures are in response to proposed amendments by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council that could extend their Snapper-Grouper Fishery Management Unit northward and prevent any harvest of tilefish and groupers off of the Virginia coast beyond 40 fathoms. Proposed regulation amendments will include:

1) Recreational Fishery:
        a) 1 grouper per vessel per day
        b) 3 tilefish per person per day not to exceed 18 tilefish per vessel
        c) Creation of a recreational landing permit for grouper and tilefish possession
        d) Require recreational mandatory catch reporting of grouper and tilefish 

2) Commercial Fishery:
        a) 150 pounds of tilefish per vessel per trip
        b) 150 pounds of grouper per vessel per trip
        c) 1 snowy grouper per vessel per trip
        d) 1 warsaw grouper per vessel per trip

5). Chapter 4VAC20-650-et seq. "Establishment of Oyster Sanctuary Areas".

The purpose of these proposed amendments is to protect constructed oyster reef restoration sites as long term oyster sanctuaries.

The proposed oyster sanctuary areas are on or adjacent to The Nature Conservancy properties at four locations in Northampton County, include southern Smith Island, southern Cobb Island, east of and adjacent to Hillcrest Farm near Oyster, and east of and adjacent to Boxtree, and one location in Accomack County, east of and adjacent to, Parramore Island.


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