Application for a New Fixed Fishing Device (FFD) License:
Commercial fishermen interested in licensing a FFD should contact the District Officer (a Marine Police Officer assigned to manage FFDs) in the area where they would like to license a FFD (check our Field Office web page for contact information). The District Officer reviews a fisherman’s proposed location to ensure that it is located at an appropriate distance from other licensed FFD locations and meets other rules that may apply to locating a FFD. The District Officer assists the fisherman in selecting a location that will minimize conflicts with other resource users (realizing that eliminating all potential conflicts is not possible, but selecting a location of least potential conflict will benefit all users). 4 VAC 20-25-30, “Pertaining to Pound Net Siting Public Interest Review” also has the following criteria:
In considering the licensing of a pound net at a new location, the Commission shall be guided in its deliberation by the provisions of Article XI, Section I of the Constitution of Virginia and the public trust doctrine, as defined by the common law of the Commonwealth adopted pursuant to § 1-10. The Commission shall also consider the effects of placement of the pound net at the new location on the following:
1. Other reasonable and permissible uses of the state waters;
2. Marine and fishery resources of the Commonwealth;
3. Tidal wetlands;
4. Adjacent or nearby properties;
5. Water Quality; and
6. Submerged aquatic vegetation
Once a site is chosen, the applicant completes and submits to the District Officer an application (often done by applicant and District Officer together):
Application for New Location of Pound Net Fixed Fishing Device -- This form is for requesting a commercial license for new location or relocation of a pound net fixed fishing device by the same fisherman:
Application for New Location of Pound Net Fixed Fishing Device, Supplemental Form -- This supplemental form is for requesting a commercial license for new location or relocation of a pound net fixed fishing device by the same fisherman:
Application for New Location of Staked Gill Net or Fyke Net Fixed Fishing Device -- This form is for requesting a commercial license for new location or relocation of a staked gill net or fyke net fixed fishing device by the same fisherman:
The application is forwarded by the District Officer to the MRC Fisheries Office (Rob O’Reilly or Jennifer Farmer, 757-247-2002 (fax)). Once the application is reviewed it is then forwarded to the MRC Survey Department who then assigns a surveyor to verify the specific location of the proposed FFD. The surveyor determines the latitude and longitude of both ends of the FFD (generally referred to as the inshore and offshore locations). Once a proposed FFD site is verified the Survey Department returns the location information to the Fisheries Office. If the FFD is a staked gill net or fyke net, the Fisheries Office will notify the District Officer that an authorization to purchase has been created in the MRC Commercial Fishing Licensing System (CFLS) using the location information verified by the Survey Department. All latitude and longitudes must follow this convention: N37-30.6048 W76-56.4087. The CFLS authorization will also include the unique site number assigned by the Survey Department, as well as a simple narrative description of the location that should include some nearby landmark and waterbody. If the new FFD location applied for is for a pound net, the proposed location must go through a public review process as described in Regulation 4 VAC 20-25-10 ET SEQ. Pertaining to Pound Net Siting Public Interest Review. The Fisheries Office manages the public review process which typically takes several months. Once the pound net public review process has been completed the Fisheries Office will notify the District Officer that an authorization to purchase has been created in CFLS for the specific pound net location approved by the Commission.
After a FFD authorization is created in CFLS, the District Officer will notify the fisherman that they can purchase the license at any MRC License Agent. After the license is purchased, the fisherman must contact the District Officer to coordinate the assistance of the Survey Department in placing the stakes or poles at the end points of the FFD in the newly authorized location.
Once the FFD has been fully installed and is fishing with a complete system of nets and poles, the fisherman must again contact the District Officer to verify the device has been used to fish. The District Officer inspection of the FFD should be completed by November to ensure that the FFD will be eligible for renewal in the following year.
As mentioned above there is public review process for siting of pound nets. Public notices related to proposed locations of pound nets are posted here: http://www.mrc.virginia.gov/Notices/lbnet-notices.shtm.
Pound nets also have a limited entry program that restricts the sale of licenses to 161 in the Bay and lower tributary rivers. Availability of licenses under this cap can be checked at this web site: http://www.mrc.virginia.gov/Notices/lbnet-notices.shtm (click on link to pound net cap report). Most years there are some pound net licenses available to new applicants, but there can be years where there are more applications, often termed “applications for vacant stands”, than there are available licenses. Applications are considered in the order of receipt, but in some cases a lottery may be held to determine the successful applicant. All applicants for vacant stands are encouraged to submit applications for vacant stands as soon after Noon on January 10 as possible. Any applications received before that time will be considered as received then. All applications must be made to the District Officer in the area the proposed net is to be located. All applications must be complete and should have a specific proposed location and all other requested information to be condsiodered.
Typically sales of FFD licenses are suspended between Noon on January 10 and 9AM on February 1. Fishermen trying to purchase a new staked gill net or a new fyke net can technically purchase during this period, but should make arrangements to buy those licenses by contacting the District Officer who in turn can contact the Main Office staff to temporarily turn on sales for the purchase. Between Noon on January 10 and 9AM on February 1, available pound nets under the 161 cap are determined and applicants that are eligible to receive one of the available pound nets are notified. Eligible applicants for new vacant pound net stands must still go through the public review process mentioned above unless the application is for an existing, recently licensed pound net location. Once notified, applicants for the new sites must initiate the public review process in a reasonable time or they may lose the eligibility to propose and license a new location. Application for vacant stands are only valid for the calendar year in which the application is made (the same year the net is to be fished).
Renewal of FFD Licenses:
To renew a FFD license the license must have been purchased in the prior year. The licensed site must also be fished with a complete system of nets and poles and be available to inspection by a Marine Police Officer (MPO) with two exceptions:
1) Pound nets only need to be fished at least once in two years, but the license must be purchased every year to renew.
2) Pound nets forfeited as described in 4-VAC-20-380 cannot be fished, but the license must be purchased every year to renew.
Annually in November, the District Officer (MPO) in the area where the FFD is located will work with the FFD licensed fisherman to re-authorize the purchase of the license for the upcoming year, if it is eligible for renewal as described above. If a FFD fisherman has not been in contact with the District Officer in their area by December 1 of each year they should contact the District Officer to ensure that their FFD has been authorized for purchase in the upcoming year. Commercial fishing license sales, including FFD licenses, for the upcoming year begin on December 1 of each year. Each FFD eligible for renewal will be authorized by the District Officer in the MRC Commercial Fishing Licensing System (CFLS). Once a FFD license purchase is authorized, a FFD fisherman can go to any MRC License Agent to purchase the license. As described in 4-VAC-20-20 Pertaining to the Licensing of Fixed Fishing Devices, the license needs to be purchased by Noon on January 10 of the year of fishing to retain priority rights to the location and eligibility to license the location; with the exception that a pound net forfeited as described in 4-VAC-20-380 has until April 1 to renew the forfeited license.
If an existing, un-forfeited FFD license is not purchased by Noon on January 10, the prior FFD licensee loses their priority right to the specific FFD location until 9AM on February 1. Between Noon on January 10 and 9AM on February 1, any eligible commercial fisherman, other than the prior licensee, can apply to buy a license to fish the previously existing FFD location. For pound net locations that are managed under the 161 cap and have not been renewed by Noon on January 10, the licenses are considered as available under the cap and can be made available to another fisherman that has applied for the specific location or for a vacant stand. After 9AM on February 1, the original license holder can again be eligible to renew and purchase the license they had held the prior year and failed to renew (for pound nets there must still be nets available under the cap for the license to be sold).
Existing pound net locations do not have to go through the public review process even if the priority rights to the location have lapsed. For example, if a pound net is not fished once in a two year period the licensee is not eligible to renew between December 1 and February 1 following the year the license has lapsed; beginning on Noon January 10 another fisherman could apply and license that specific site without going through the public review process, and after February 1 the original licensee could come back and license that location without a public review process, as long as it had not been licensed to someone else between January 10 and February 1. At some point, the Fisheries Division may determine that a un-fished pound net location will require a new public siting review.
Transfer of FFD Licenses:
FFD licenses can be transferred between two different fishermen using this form: Application for Transfer of a Fixed Fishing Device Location http://mrc.virginia.gov/forms/2012/APPLICATION_FOR_TRANSFER_OF_LICENSE_OF_A_FIXED_FISHING_DEVICE_LOCATION.pdf
Transfers can be for an existing licensed location from one fisherman to another. In this case no public review is necessary if the FFD is a pound net, since the second fisherman plans to fish the same location. If the transfer occurs during the course of the fishing year, the fisherman obtaining the license/location will require a new sales authorization in the CFLS and will be required to purchase a license; in other words the fisherman giving up their net may already have a license for that fishing year, but they cannot transfer that specific license to the receiving individual – they just agree to give up their right to the license/location – this is usually done in writing and held by the District officer. There is an automated method in CFLS to execute the transfer and create the sales authorization for the fisherman obtaining the transferred FFD license.
Transfers can also be for the same fisherman to move their currently licensed location to a new net location. In this type of transfer, the District Officer and fisherman use the same procedures outlined for a new FFD license to have the proposed location verified by the Survey Department, and in the case of pound nets the proposed new location must go through the public review process.
Governing Regulations for FFD devices:
4 VAC 20-20-10 ET SEQ. Pertaining to the Licensing of Fixed Fishing Devices – establishes rules for priority rights to specific FFD locations.
4 VAC 20-25-10 ET SEQ. Pertaining to Pound Net Siting Public Interest Review – established requirement for public review of proposed pound net locations
4 VAC 20-170-10 ET SEQ. Pertaining to the Removal of Nets – establishes requirements to actively fish FFDs and other nets or remove the net from the water
4 VAC 20-380-10 ET SEQ. Pertaining to Grey Trout (Weakfish) – establishes process to forfeit pound nets
4 VAC 20-600-10 ET SEQ. Pertaining to Pound Net License Sales – establishes a limit on sales of pound net licenses at 161 licenses in the Bay and lower parts of tributary rivers
There are also FFD specific rules in other regulations, usually regarding species specific seasons, bycatch, possession limits, etc. Refer to our general regulation index to see species specific regulations related to FFDs.
Licensing Information for Crab Traps:
Crab traps licensing is governed by a limited entry system set up by 4 VAC 20-1040-10 ET SEQ. "PERTAINING TO CRABBING LICENSES". This regulation imposes a moratorium on new crab licenses, therefore crab trap licenses can only be obtained by a license renewal process for a commercial fisherman that remain eligible under the rules of CHAPTER 4 VAC 20-1040-10 ET SEQ. or when an eligible crab trap licensee agrees to transfer a crab trap license to another commercial fisherman. These types of transfers can be initiated using this form:
Application for commercial crabbing license transfer, http://mrc.virginia.gov/forms/2015/Crab_license_transfer.pdf
The following two sections of 4 VAC 20-460-10 ET SEQ. Pertaining to the Use of Crab Traps and Pounds describes application procedures and priority rights to crab trap locations. All applications and transfer applications should be made to the District Officer in the area the device is to be located.
4 VAC 20-460-13. APPLICATION AND LOCATION.
A. Application for crab trap or crab pound licenses, to be issued pursuant to § 28.2-701 of the Code of Virginia shall state thereon the exact location of each trap or crab pound. If application is made for a license for more than one crab trap or crab pound, the application may embrace more than one, provided the traps or pounds are to be located in the same area, and further provided they are contiguous and are located next to each other, but the location of each must be definitely described. No application for any location for a crab trap or pound shall be made prior to December 1 of the year preceding the current license year.
B. Only one license shall be issued for the same location, or within 100 yards of that location, during the same calendar year and any subsequent license issued through error, or otherwise, for the same location, or within 100 yards of that location, shall be void as to that location. Upon request by such licensee, made within 60 days after issuance, a refund of such license fee shall be made.
C. The licensee shall be responsible for the location of the trap or pound.
D. The license, when issued, shall be subject to oyster leases and riparian rights, and shall not apply inshore of the mean low water mark.
4 VAC 20-460-15. PRIORITY RIGHTS.
The licensee of any location for a crab trap or pound that was actually fished or crabbed by the licensee during the preceding year shall have a priority right over all other applicants to license the same location for the current license year, provided such licensee remains otherwise qualified and makes application for such location on or before April 1 of the current license year. All other applicants for such location will have their applications considered in chronological order of receipt after April 1 of the license year.
A crab trap licensee does not have to fish or crab their license to retain the right to re-license a crab trap the following year, but they do need to fish or crab it in order to retain the priority right to a specific crab trap location; if they do not fish or crab a licensed crab trap location then any eligible fisherman can apply to license that location in the following license year. The same is true if the original licensee fails to renew their license by April 1 of each year.
Governing Regulations for crab traps:
REGULATION 4 VAC 20-460-10 ET SEQ. Pertaining to the Use of Crab Traps and Pounds
CHAPTER 4 VAC 20-1040-10 ET SEQ. "PERTAINING TO CRABBING LICENSES"
Online Mapping Tools Related to FFDs:
https://webapps.mrc.virginia.gov/public/maps/chesapeakebay_map.php - web
link that can be used by anybody to see FFD location data real-time; the lease &
application data is usually only one day old; condemnation zone info is not
usually up to date, but not usually more than a month old.
http://webapps.mrc.virginia.gov/public/maps/virginia_poundnets.php - this is a realtime map of pound net license sold for the current year that shows if they are active, forfeited or exempt (exempts are upriver nets above the limited entry lines for pound nets).
https://webapps.mrc.virginia.gov/fip/mobile/ - this is a smartphone formatted web link, that has several mapping resources.
For MRC personnel:
On the CFLS Report menu there is a Marine Police Menu with a link to Fixed Fishing Device Map :: Map and Detail Info of FFD – this is mapable by MRCID which can be helpful.
In TES in the first Reports section there is a button labeled verify FFD location – this can be used to key in coordinates for a proposed location and see where they are in relation to leases and other FFDs.
Contact Jeanne Baaklini, Licensing Coordinator, at 757-247-2127 or
Jeanne.Baaklini@mrc.virginia.gov if you have additional
Updated: December 12, 2017