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NOTE: This newsletter may contain outdated material. Please review the Regulation Index and the What’s New pages to obtain the most recent versions of the Regulation information.

VMRC Fisheries News







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




"Horseshoe Crab"



Have you spotted the Veined Rapa Whelk?

Proposed Research





The Commission recently changed the regulation pertaining to the harvest of whelks as follows:

4 VAC 20-890-10 ET SEQ. "Pertaining to Channeled Whelk" (Effective August 5, 1998)


4 VAC 20-890-30 - Minimum Size Limits.

A. It shall be unlawful for any person to possess more than 10 channeled whelk per bushel or bag, which measure less than 5 2 inches in length.

B. It shall be unlawful for any person to possess more than 30 channeled whelk, per barrel, which measure less than 5 2 inches in length.

C. Those undersized whelk in excess of the allowance levels, as described in subsections A and B of this section, shall be returned immediately to the water alive.



We would like to thank all the watermen who have followed the instructions for filling out the new forms. There are a few recurring errors we would like to bring to your attention:

1. Please do not cut the forms into daily tickets; there is a serial number on each sheet that must stay with the sheet. The forms are designed to reduce repetitive writing. The "top ticket" is the header (fill out completely); you only have to put information that changes on the additional four tickets.

2. Only check the "Cont Box" when you are continuing information from the same date to an additional ticket.

3. Please include the commercial registration numbers of all the people working with you each day.

4. We need the hours your gear was in the water, not the number of hours it takes you to pull your gear.

5. Please do not put different dates, multiple gears and water bodies on the same ticket. It is difficult to determine what came out of which gear and which waterbody and day the gear was being fished.

6. Please indicate whether the amount caught is in pounds, bushels, or numbers.

The Mandatory Reporting staff understands that some of you fish with more than one type of gear and catch several different species. Consequently, you may be short on the number of tickets we have sent you for your reports. We apologize for this inconvenience and are currently working on a solution to resolve this matter.


The Commission takes "failure to report" very seriously. The Commission relies on timely and accurate reports in order to more accurately assess fish stocks so that appropriate regulations may be determined. Many certified letters are sent out e.g. crab dredge permits, black drum permits, striped bass permits, commercial registration permits. You must pick these up and respond immediately so that you won't be automatically disqualified.

If you have any questions about how to fill out the Mandatory Reporting Forms please call us at 1-800-937-9247 between 8:15 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. After 5:00 p.m. please leave a message on the answering machine. Leave your name and commercial registration number. PLEASE SPEAK CLEARLY!!



Three new members have recently joined the VMRC staff of Plans and Statistics. Tina Hutcheson accepted the Fisheries Specialist position. Cory Routh and Eric Brittle will be working as field technicians for the Stock Assessment Program. Welcome Aboard!!!


**Have You Seen This Animal?**

The Veined Rapa Whelk (Rapana venosa)

Scientists first discovered veined rapa whelks while dredging near the Monitor Merrimac Bridge Tunnel in June this year. Virginia watermen, however, have been finding them among their catches for five or six years but had not considered them a problem. Since then, about two dozen other people have reported seeing them. Researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science have been able to map out several of these sightings.

Recently, two egg cases-with approximately 600-800 eggs-have been found in the Hampton Roads waters, evidence that the Asian whelks are reproducing. If they become established, these predatory creatures pose a potential threat to oysters and clams as shellfish are their main diet. While native whelks also eat shellfish, they are prevented from spreading by the periodic floods of fresh water.

The Asian whelk species doesn't seem to be affected by the periodic floods of fresh water nor does it appear to have any natural predators here. In their native waters between Japan and the Asia mainland, they are mainly eaten by octopuses.

The eggs or larvae of the Asian whelk species were probably introduced to the Hampton Roads area from the ballast water of a cargo ship. This means they can also be spread to other East Coast ports the same way. In the 1940's the veined rapa whelk was accidentally introduced into the Black Sea where, it is believed, they were partly responsible for wiping out Black Sea Oysters. Currently there is an international treaty that urges voluntary compliance to mid-ocean ballast exchange.

Scientists at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science are studying the life cycle of the Veined Rapa whelk including the breeding and eating habits. Researchers will also try to determine whether salinity changes in the bay will confine the whelk to certain regions. Once this is understood, scientist hope they will be able to predict the effects the Asian whelk species may have on the ecology of the Chesapeake Bay, and the best way to prevent them from spreading to other areas.



Promoting the Virginia Seafood Industry:

Due to the outbreak of the toxic micro-organism Pfisteria piscicida, the Virginia seafood industry received a lot of negative publicity. Seafood industry officials believe much of that coverage was misleading and people's fears were unjustified. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission voted to fund a marketing program to promote a more positive out-look on the Virginia seafood industry. The Virginia Marine Products Board will be in charge of running the program. Some of the money will be used to produce videos and photographs and to hold press conferences with reporters. Additional money will be spent on media materials if there is another Pfisteria outbreak.

Striped Bass Research:

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science will be continuing with their research on the causative agent or agents for skin lesions on striped bass and the impacts they may have regarding human health. Researchers will also try to examine the effects this suspectent bacterial agent may have on striped bass stocks. They also hope to determine the parts of the Chesapeake Bay where this pathogen will have the greatest impact so that the severity and extent of the problem can be understood. Only after there is a detailed scientific understanding can these issues be addressed rationally and effectively without needless adverse impacts to the recreational and commercial fisheries.

Researchers will continue obtaining fish samples from pound nets in the Rappahannock river throughout the months of August and October. They will obtain additional samples from several other river systems in order to identify the spatial distribution of this disease within the lower Bay.

"Pertaining To Exemptions For Fishermen":

Following the August 1998 Public Hearing, the Commission decided to look further into options regarding commercial fishing licenses and exemptions based on residence. Many people believe this policy would be unfair since such exemptions would apply only to specific geographical areas. The Commission shall consider all factors relevant to Virginia's fishery management policy, including but not limited to: 1) economic and social consequences; 2) food production; 3) dependence on the fishery by licensees; 4) efficiency of gear used in the fishery; 5) impact on species and fisheries; and 6) abundance of the resource. The Commission will also consider other ways to make it easier for all Virginia teenagers to become commercial fishermen.

HB656 "Pertaining To Baiting Peeler Pots"

Following the August 1998 Public Hearing the Commission decided they need to do further research on this issue. Because this is a highly controversial issue, they will need more facts to better determine what regulations need to be made. At present, there appear to be three types of peeler pot practices: 1) those that provide no food (bait) for the jimmy crab, (2) those that provide only enough food to keep the jimmy crab alive; these fishermen claim that excessive food tends to attract too many small hard crabs that are not useable, and 3) those that use large quantities of food in an attempt to use the peeler pot as a hard crab pot, circumventing current regulations.




(Limulus polyphemus)

The term "Horseshoe Crab" is somewhat misleading for this species, because it is not a true crab. Believe it or not, the Horseshoe Crab is more closely related to a spider or scorpion. Unlike true crabs, these creatures lack antennae and mandibles and have seven pairs of legs rather than five. Their front pair of legs are modified for feeding, much like a spider's. Male horseshoe crabs can be distinguished by the first pair of legs which are heavier than those of the female. Horseshoe crabs also have two pairs of eyes, the first set are compound and the second pair are simple. The compound eyes are large and are used to detect movement and light. The simple eyes are much smaller and are believed to function as chemoreceptors to detect the presence of other animals.

Many people consider the Horseshoe Crab to be a "living fossil" because it has been around for several million years with very little change. They are bottom dwelling creatures and can be found along the entire east coast of North America. Their diet mainly consists of clams, worms, and other invertebrates.

Horseshoe Crabs reach sexual maturity in eight to 10 years after about 17 molts and may live as long as 18 years. The appearance of the shell is a general indicator of the age of this animal . As the horseshoe crab ages, the shell is exposed to a sand-abrasive environment, the larvae of epibionts, and diseases. Young adults (1 to 3 years of age) have a clean glossy shell. They are the most active at this age making them more difficult to catch. Middle-age adults (3 to 7 years old) have moderately eroded and scratched shells with a portion of the black layer exposed. Females have large black areas on the middle and back portion of the abdomen caused by mating. Old adults (7 plus years) have extremely eroded shells where the black layer is worn away exposing a thin, brownish-layer which is often has a green tint. These adults are usually sluggish. Relative ages of the adult females in a population are assumed to be key indicators of the "health of the population.

Horseshoe crabs reproduce in the spring during lunar high tides. The female digs a shallow nest in the beach where she deposits approximately 2000 to 30,000 large eggs. Meanwhile the smaller male is clasped onto the female's carapace and fertilizes the eggs as she is laying them. The eggs hatch following the next lunar high tide and the crab larvae swim into the surf. Juvenile horseshoe crabs generally spend their first and second summer on the intertidal flats. As they grow older, they can be found several kilometers offshore.

Predators, natural events, and man-caused events appear to have a major impact on different life stages of the horseshoe crab. Eggs and larvae are eaten by shorebirds and small fish and are also vulnerable to beach erosion caused by storms. Eggs and larvae are also vulnerable to beach erosion caused by storms. Juvenile horseshoe crabs may fall prey to crustacea and sharks, especially when molting. Juveniles molt when the tide goes out, but if there is not enough water available to complete the process or if the nursery habitats become filled they will more than likely die. Large shore birds, loggerhead turtles, and sharks are predators of adult horseshoe crabs. Adults may become stranded following winter storms and construction projects may prevent them from migrating or spawning. Pollution and toxic waste may also have a major impact on all of the life stages of the horseshoe crab.

At the turn of the century, large numbers of horseshoe crabs were harvested and processed into fertilizer and livestock feed. Now they are mainly harvested for eel and conch bait but are also used in medical research.

Horseshoe crab blood contains a series of enzymes that cause the human blood to clot in the presence of toxins released by a whole class of bacteria. For each ounce of blood used, 100 bacterial tests can be performed. Scientists use the blood of the horseshoe crab for eye research, surgical sutures and wound dressing development, the detection of bacteria in drugs, vaccines, and medical implants.

To ensure the survival of the species, only the blood of mature, healthy crabs are used for scientific research. To make sure they are not bled more than once a year, a small notch is taken out of each donor shell. Less than 10 percent of the crabs will die from the process. Researchers are trying to develop a synthetic protein to replace the enzyme solution. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires that crabs be returned to the ocean within 48 hours of being caught.

Because horseshoe crabs are an important resource for so many things, such as the main food source for migratory shorebirds, the main type of bait used by commercial watermen for conch pots, and for biomedical research, scientists and fisheries managers are concerned about the health of the stock. Due to the lack of data on horseshoe crab stocks, only a preliminary, interim stock assessment can be made. This is why it is very important for commercial fishermen to report their total catch, so that a more accurate stock assessment can be made.

Virginia fishermen catch relatively few horseshoe crabs. Landings of horseshoe crabs were primarily bycatch from other fisheries prior to 1998. In 1996, they landed about 86,000 pounds of them, about 1 percent of the 8.2 million pounds caught along the east coast from Virginia to New York. There is concern however, that the landings in Virginia will increase dramatically because of the high restrictions in other states. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is currently working on a coastwide horseshoe crab management plan.





MAFMC, October 5-8 Essington, PA

ASMFC, October 19-22

Jekyll Island, Georgia (American Eel FMP)

FINFISH, October 13

VMRC, October 27, Commission Mtg 9:30am




 FINFISH, November 17

 VMRC, November 23, Commission Mtg. 9:30am


VMRC - Virginia Marine Resources Commission. Meetings set as 4th Tuesday of each month. Meetings begin at 9:00 a.m. (fisheries items are generally considered after 12 noon). Held at Commission Main office.

CLAM - Clam Management Advisory Committee. Meetings to be announced. Meetings begin at 7 p.m. Held at Commission Main office.

FINFISH - Finfish Management Advisory Committee. Meetings generally the 3rd Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. Held at Commission Main office.

BLUECRAB - Blue Crab Management Advisory Committee. Meetings to be announced. Held at Commission Main office.

SHELLFISH - Shellfish Management Advisory Committee. Meetings will be held quarterly (February-April-July-October). Held at VIMS, Gloucester Point, VA.

RFAB - VMRC Recreational Fishing Advisory Board. Meeting generally begin 7 p.m. Held at Commission Main office.

CFAB - VMRC Commercial Fishing Advisory Board. Meetings generally begin 4 p.m. Held at Commission Main office.

MAFMC - Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. Call (302)674-2331 to find out the meeting locations. (The city and state change for each meeting).

ASMFC - Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Call (202)452-9110 to find out the meeting location. (The city and state change for each meeting).

ESORC - Seaside Eastern Shore Oyster Replenishment Committee. Meetings to be announced. Held at VIMS in Wachapreague, VA.

LRC - Living Resources Committee. Meetings held the 3rd Tuesday of each month at Chesapeake Bay Program Office, Annapolis, MD.

RHD - Reef Habitat Development Subcommittee. Chesapeake Bay Program Office, Annapolis, MD.


ISSC - Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference. Call Mr. Ken Moore (803) 788-7559 for more information. Conference held in Sturbridge, MA.

PRFC - Potomac River Fisheries Commission. 222 Taylor Street; P.O. Box 9; Colonial Beach, VA 22443, (804)224-7148, (800)266-3904

NOTE: Committee Dates are tentative. Check with VMRC Fisheries Management Division to verify date, time, and place, (757)247-2200. Shellfish Committee and Seaside Eastern Shore Oyster Replenishment Committee meetings - verify date, time and place by calling 757-247-2120

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