VMRC COVID-19 Office Closure and Interim Procedures Information


The VMRC main office on Ft. Monroe and other agency field offices are closed until further notice as a result of State office closures related to the COVID-19 virus.  Please use the notifications below to see interim MRC procedures in effect during the office closure, and other COVID-19 related announcements.

The Commission's Marine Police Operations Center will remain open for emergency services only, and Marine Police Officers will remain in the field. Citizens are encouraged to use the Agency's toll free number, 800-541-4646, to report emergencies, boating accidents and marine resource violations.  For additional information on the coronavirus pandemic visit the Governor's COVID-19 web page.[Virginia COVID-19 Updates]

May 28, 2020:  Updated guidelines for charter fishing vessels during the COVID-19 pandemic have been posted. [Charter Fishing Operating Guidelines]

Updated interim procedures concerning VMRC Oyster Planting Ground Lease Renewals/Applications/Transfers during MRC's COVID-19 office closure:

If you recently received your ten year oyster planting ground lease renewal form, please return before the lease term expiration date. If such forms are not received before the renewal date the lease will not be renewed. You must also submit the $150 renewal review fee with each lease form. We are, however, suspending the requirement to have your signature notarized, so complete the form, sign, and include the fee payment with the completed form.
Payment of lease rent for the 2019-2020 lease year is due no later than June 30, 2020. Final rent statements will be mailed the week of June 1, 2020, by certified mail. If payment is not received in the VMRC office by June 30, the lease will be terminated.

Lease applications and requests for transfers are still being accepted and processed. Contact the Engineering/Surveying office if you have questions at 757-247-2225, or at ben.stagg@mrc.virginia.gov.

May 22, 2020: the May Commission meeting being held next Tuesday will be an electronic only meeting. Please refer to the agency web calendar for the meeting agenda and public participation instructions, and other materials related to the meeting. [ Calendar ]

The Survey Monkey site used for the VMRC COVID-19 disaster relief survey released this week will be down tomorrow (Saturday) 12 pm to 8pm for maintenance. Survey responses can be provided through June 1. [ Survey Announcement  |  Fisheries Disaster Relief Survey ]

May 19, 2020:  The Commission has released a survey to help the agency determine priorities and ensure that VMRC is making the best use of the limited NOAA fisheries disaster relief funds.  Marine fisheries participants, as outlined in the survey, should respond to the survey by June 1, 2020. [ Survey Announcement  |  Fisheries Disaster Relief Survey ]

May 12, 2020: COVID-19 fisheries disaster relief program information has been posted. [Disaster Relief Information Page Press Release]

The Crab Management Advisory Committee (CMAC) will meet electronically at 4:00 PM on May 21, 2020 to discuss the results of the 2019/2020 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey. Please see the Commission Calendar (https://www.mrc.virginia.gov/calendar.shtm) for public participation information and an access link to be used at the meeting time.

The public notice and tentative agenda for the electronic-only May Commission meeting has been posted. [Public Notice | Tentative Agenda]

May 8, 2020: Effective May 15th and per the authority in the Governor's Executive Orders 53 and 55, Charter Fishing Vessels are allowed to resume operation under the following rules. These rules were developed with input from the industry and guidance from the CDC. These guidelines will remain in effect until further notice from VMRC. We will continue to work with the Governor's office to decide when to ease these guidelines. If you have any additional questions please email fisheries@mrc.virginia.gov.  [Charter Fishing Reopen Rules]

April 30, 2020: Update on Interim procedures for commercial fishermen during MRC's COVID-19 office closure:

Commercial Fishermen:

The license renewal deadline of April 30th has been extended until further notice during the MRC’s COVID-19 office closure. Once the offices re-open their will be a grace period before 2020 licenses will be required.
While the office is closed, license renewals can still be conducted by mail by sending to: VMRC Licenses, Building 96, 380 Fenwick Rd, Fort Monroe, VA, 23651. Walk-in license renewals cannot be honored during the office closure under the Governor’s Executive Order 55.

Commercial Fishing Licenses: Any commercial fisherman who is unable to renew their Commercial Fisherman Registration License during this closure will be allowed to continue to fish with 2019 license until VMRC reopens. This would include any gear licenses or permits associated with your Commercial Fisherman Registration License to include crab pots, gill nets, and oyster gear. This only applies to those individuals with a valid Commercial Fisherman Registration License for the previous license year and will expire once the agency reopens. The agency will post on the VMRC website when the agency will reopen.

Striped Bass license transfers, quota transfers, and additional striped bass tags WILL NOT be able to be processed during this closure period.

Other license transfers can be submitted by mail to: VMRC, License Transfers, Building 96, 380 Fenwick Rd, Fort Monroe, VA, 23651.

Crab Agents: Individuals who would like to use a crab agent during this closure but have not submitted a form can do so without an approved form as long as the agent is in possession of your current CFRL card. Additionally, crab agents applications are available online at: https://www.mrc.virginia.gov/Forms/2016/Crab_Agent_Application.pdf and can be mailed to the agency or emailed to fisheries@mrc.virginia.gov (Subject Header: Crab Agent). They will be processed as soon as possible. Crab agent applications will be required once the agency reopens.


April 29, 2020:

Interim procedures regarding priority rights in regards to crab traps and pounds


The Virginia Marine Resources Commission is waiving the priority rights requirements in 4 VAC 20-460-15. This regulatory section requires applicants of either crab traps or pounds to fish the licensed location in 2020 to retain priority rights to that same location in 2021. This waiver will allow licensees to retain their priority rights to these locations in 2021 without having to set and report harvest from that location in 2020. Due to fishery conditions related to the COVID-19 virus, the setting and fishing of crab trap or pound locations may not be reasonable in 2020. All other regulations pertaining to the use of crab traps and pounds will remain in effect.

These actions are pursuant to the authority afforded to the Commissioner by the Governor's Executive Order 51(C) and in agreement with the Secretary of Natural Resources.

Virginia Extends Offshore Summer Flounder Fishery until May 31, 2020

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission is waiving the listed dates in 4 VAC 20-620-40 C. The offshore directed commercial summer flounder fishery will remain open until midnight Sunday, May 31, 2020. All other regulations pertaining to the summer flounder fishery remain in effect. [Notice]

These actions are pursuant to the authority afforded to the Commissioner by the Governor's Executive Order 51(C) and in agreement with the Secretary of Natural Resources.

 Interim procedures regarding Charter Captains and expired Merchant Mariner Credentials

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission is allowing individuals with a United States Coast Guard (USCG) Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) that has expired between March 1, 2020, and July 31, 2020 obtain a Virginia Guide License or a Virginia Fishing Guide Reciprocity Permit through October 31, 2020. This is in response to the closing of the USCG offices that process MMC applications and renewals on March 19, 2020 and the USCG extension of these expiration dates. Captains actively working on expired credentials must carry the expired credential with a copy of the USCG Marine Safety Information Bulletin 08-20, which can be found here:   USCG Mariner Credentials


April 28, 2020:  Results of yesterday's electronic Commission Meeting have been posted.  [Commission Results]

April 27, 2020:  Virginia Announces the Recreational Black Sea Bass Season
- the Virginia Marine Resources Commission is extending the recreational black sea bass season in 4 VAC 20-950-45 to be open from May 29 to December 31. This closes the regular May 15 to December 31 season for 14 days to account for 14,236 pounds of black sea bass landed during the February recreational season. All other regulations pertaining to the recreational black sea bass fishery remain in effect. This action is pursuant to the authority afforded to the Commissioner by the Governor's Executive Order 51(C) and in agreement with the Secretary of Natural Resources.

April 23, 2020: 
Public participation instructions for next week's April 28th electronic Commission meeting have been posted on the web calendar. [Calendar]

April 20, 2020: At 4:00 p.m., the Menhaden Management Advisory Committee (MMAC) will hold a special, electronic-only meeting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of the committee is to provide guidance to the VMRC on the sustainable management of the menhaden resource and harvest of the bait and reduction fisheries in the waters of the Commonwealth, including the Chesapeake Bay. Since the meeting will be electronic only, please check back on the Commission's calendar web page on the day of meeting to get public participation information. Calendar link to: https://www.mrc.virginia.gov/calendar.shtm

April 13, 2020:
  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the April 28, 2020 Commission meeting will be an electronic only meeting and will only consider a single fisheries agenda item concerning menhaden fishery management and a single habitat permit item. The meeting will be electronic only, so please check back on the Commission's calendar web page on the day of meeting to get public participation information. [Calendar | Notice | Draft Menhaden Regulation]

April 7, 2020: interim procedures regarding commercial striped bass and tautog tags:

Striped Bass Tags/Transfers
The Virginia Marine Resources Commission is waiving the possession restriction in 4 VAC 20-252-160 – B1. This restriction prohibits any commercial striped bass fishermen who are issued tags for both the Chesapeake Bay Area and the Coastal Area from possessing both Bay and Ocean tags at once. This waiver will allow possession of Bay and Ocean tags at once, as long as only one type of tag (Bay or Ocean) are present onboard the vessel at any given time. This waiver remains in effect until the VMRC main office on Ft. Monroe and other agency field offices are reopened after the state office closure related to the COVID-19 virus.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission is suspending the ability to transfer striped bass Chesapeake Bay Area and Coastal Area quota in accordance with 4 VAC 20-252-160-D 1&2, until the VMRC main office on Ft. Monroe and other agency field offices are reopened after the state office closure related to the COVID-19 virus.

All other regulations pertaining to the striped bass fishery remain in effect.

These actions are pursuant to the authority afforded to the Commissioner by the Governor's Executive Order 51(C) and in agreement with the Secretary of Natural Resources.

Tautog Tags
The Virginia Marine Resources Commission is waiving the commercial tautog permitting and tagging requirements in 4 VAC 20-960-48. Any tautog landed for commercial purposes during the March 1 2020 - May 15 2020 season do not require a tag. Any previously permitted fishermen may continue applying and reporting their tags, but violations will not be issued for the landing or possession of untagged tautog from the March 1 to May 15 season. All other regulations pertaining to the tautog fishery remain in effect and tagging regulations for the November 1 2020 - January 21 2021 season will remain.

This action is pursuant to the authority afforded to the Commissioner by the Governor's Executive Order 51(C) and in agreement with the Secretary of Natural Resources.


April 6, 2020:  Updated interim procedures for VMRC JPA Permit Holders and Applicants during MRC's COVID-19 office closure:

The Habitat Management Division has limited ability to receive and process Joint Permit Applications submitted by regular mail through USPS, or shipped by UPS or FedEx. Review of applications submitted in this manner may be delayed. You may submit a pdf copy of your application by email to jpa.permits@mrc.virginia.gov as an alternative and we will process your request electronically.

Any work authorized by VMRC permits, issued by the Habitat Management Division with expiration dates during the office closure, may continue. You are required, however, to send an email to jpa.permits@mrc.virginia.gov to formally request an extension.

April 3, 2020:
Membership of the newly formed Menhaden Management Advisory Committee (MMAC) has been finalized. The purpose of the committee is to provide guidance to the VMRC on the sustainable management of the menhaden resource and harvest of the bait and reduction fisheries in the waters of the Commonwealth, including the Chesapeake Bay. The Commissioner extends his thanks to all applicants to the committee for their interest in assisting with the management of the menhaden fishery in Virginia. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic the first MMAC meeting has not yet been scheduled. [MMAC Membership]

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council is soliciting public input on an amendment to address revisions to the Mackerel, Squid, and Butterfish fishery management plan goals and objectives, as well as modifications to Illex fishery permitting. A webinar-based public hearing will be held on Monday April 13th at 6:00 pm for the southern region. Written comments will be accepted through April 20, 2020. All information regarding the public hearings and written comments can be found here: [MAFMC Notice]

April 2, 2020:  Charter boat and party boat operations are hereby declared non-essential businesses. This decision has been made based on the directives contained in the Governor's Executive orders pertaining to social distancing and limitations of the number of people that may be onboard. In addition, a person undertaking a charter or party trip is making a discretionary decision that unnecessarily exposes the customer and the employees to the potential of contamination. Therefore, charter and party operations are prohibited until the Executive Orders expire on June 10, 2020.

April 1, 2020: Commercial fishermen and other maritime industry workers affected by COVID-19 pandemic should visit the Virginia Employment Commission website to file a claim for unemployment insurance benefits. [VEC]

March 31, 2020: Boating and Executive Order 55:  The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) remind all Virginians to follow the directive of the Governor's recently-released Executive Order 55 while enjoying the outdoors, whether on land or water. The Executive Order permits continued engagement in outdoor activities that can be beneficial to us all, while including safeguards that are necessary for the protection of yourself and the public. While enjoying time in or around the water or on public recreational lands, always maintain adequate social distancing of at least six feet from other individuals who are not family, household members, or caretakers at all times. You should also follow the prohibition of gatherings of 10 or more individuals which includes:

      - When present at access points for fishing or boating, whether state or locally-owned;
      - The beaching of vessels on sandbars, islands or banks while out on the water;
      - The "rafting" of vessels together; and the numbers of individuals present on any vessel.
      - When present at outdoor recreation lands, including Wildlife Management Areas.

DGIF and VMRC want the outdoors to be a place of safe escape for you during this difficult time, and our ability to continue to promote this depends upon your assistance. The basic precautions contained in the Executive Order are necessary to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Virginia and protect everyone's safety. DGIF's Conservation Police Officers and VMRC's Marine Police Officers will be monitoring our water access points and activities on the water and our lands to ensure compliance with the Executive Order, address problem areas, and to promote your well-being. Please do your part to help protect yourself and other Virginians and keep our outdoors available and safe to all of us.


March 30, 2020: Virginia Extends Offshore Summer Flounder Fishery until April 30, 2020. Pursuant to the authority afforded to the Commissioner by the Governor's Executive Order 51( C) and in agreement with the Secretary of Natural Resources, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission is waiving the listed dates in 4 VAC 20-620-40 C. The offshore directed summer flounder fishery will remain open until midnight Thursday, April 30, 2020. All other regulations pertaining to the summer flounder fishery remain in effect. [Notice]


March 17, 2020: Interim procedures for commercial fishermen during MRC's COVID-19 office closure:

Commercial Fishermen:

Commercial Fishing Licenses: Any commercial fisherman who is unable to renew their Commercial Fisherman Registration License during this closure will be allowed to continue to fish with 2019 license until VMRC reopens. This would include any gear licenses or permits associated with your Commercial Fisherman Registration License to include crab pots, gill nets, and oyster gear. This only applies to those individuals with a valid Commercial Fisherman Registration License for the previous license year and will expire once the agency reopens. The agency will post on the VMRC website when the agency will reopen.

      License transfers, quota transfers, and additional striped bass tags WILL NOT be able to be processed during this closure period.

Crab Agents: Individuals who would like to use a crab agent during this closure but have not submitted a form can do so without an approved form as long as the agent is in possession of your current CFRL card. Additionally, crab agents applications are available online at: https://www.mrc.virginia.gov/Forms/2016/Crab_Agent_Application.pdf and can be mailed to the agency or emailed to fisheries@mrc.virginia.gov (Subject Header: Crab Agent). They will be processed as soon as possible. Crab agent applications will be required once the agency reopens.

 

March 16, 2020: the VMRC main office on Ft. Monroe and other agency field offices are closed until further notice per Governor Northam's closure of all State facilities in the Peninsula Health District as a result of a small cluster of COVID-19 cases on the Peninsula. Next week's Commission meeting scheduled for March 24, 2020 has been cancelled. The Commission's Marine Police Operations Center will remain open for emergency services only, and Marine Police Officers will remain in the field. Citizens are encouraged to use the Agency's toll free number, 800-541-4646, to report emergencies, boating accidents and marine resource violations.  For additional information visit the Governor's COVID-19 web page.[Virginia COVID-19 Updates]


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