2009 What's New

December 2009

December 23, 2009:  No Changes Slated for Tournament in 2010 - the 53rd annual Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament, which opens January 1, 2010 and runs throughout the year, will see no modifications in its popular Citation program. <Opening Press Release>

December 18, 2009: 
The new National Saltwater Angler Registry will be launched by the federal government on Jan. 1, 2010 and will require virtually all saltwater recreational anglers in the United States (including Virginia) to call each year and register. The program is an effort to build a complete and accurate "phonebook" to better contact anglers to obtain catch information directly from them. Registration can be done through a toll-free number, 1-888-674-7411, or online at www.CountMyFish.noaa.gov. Anglers will be required to provide their names, dates of birth, addresses, telephone numbers, and the regions where they intend to fish, although they will not be restricted to fishing only in those regions and will not be required to register separately for each region in which they fish. There will be no charge to register until 2011, at which point an annual registration fee of about $25 a year will apply. All fees collected through this federal program will go to the U.S. treasury.

Those exempted from Registry requirements are: anglers under the age of 16; those who only fish on licensed charter, party or guide boats; hold a Highly Migratory Species Angling permit; or hold and are fishing under a valid commercial or subsistence fishing license or permit. The National Saltwater Angler Registry is a federal, not state, requirement. State fishing license fees will continue to be required. For more information on the Registry, please go to www.CountMyFish.noaa.gov. A Virginia Marine Resources Commission report to the General Assembly on the subject can be found in the following document:  <SJR 397 Report>

December 18, 2009: 
The Virginia Marine Resources Commission has ordered the directed Virginia offshore summer flounder fishery closed at 6 p.m. on Dec. 19, based on landing reports from the National Marine Fisheries Service that project Virginia will have caught 85 percent of the harvest quota at that point. <Closure Notice>

December 15, 2009:
  The Virginia Marine Resources Commission has enacted toughened penalties for commercial fishermen who fail to timely file their mandatory catch reports, as required. Several issues over the past year have highlighted a problem with prompt and accurate harvest reporting by some commercial watermen.  As a result, an automated notification system will go live in the Spring to alert watermen if their reports are late.  If not addressed, they will be brought before the Commission for potential penalties ranging from one year of probation to a minimum one-year license suspension for egregious violations. <Meeting Summary>

December 7, 2009: The National Marine Fisheries Service has closed the commercial scup fishery from Maine to North Carolina, effective 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 9, 2009. <Closure Notice>

December 4, 2009:
  Spiny dogfish fishery closed effective 12/6/2009. <Closure Notice>

December 1, 2009: The Virginia Marine Resources Commission has filed a comprehensive report to the Governor and the General Assembly on the status, and successes so far, of a multi-year blue crab stock rebuilding effort. <Blue Crab Management Plan>

November 2009

November 30, 2009: New rules for commercial gill net licensing and non-resident saltwater recreational hook-and-line licensing go into effect on December 1, 2009. <License Changes>

November 24, 2009: 
The Virginia Marine Resources Commission has unanimously approved a community pier with 20 boat slips, as well as construction of a beach, breakwaters and oyster reefs at a proposed new 49-lot subdivision on the Timberneck Farms property in Gloucester, located on the Timberneck and Cedarbush Creeks. <Meeting Summary

November 23, 2009:  The Virginia Marine Resources Commission will buy back 359 commercial crab licenses, in a historic action to take more than 75,000 crab pots off the water as part of a multi-year species rebuilding effort.  The licenses will be retired permanently.  The removal of these crab pots from the fishery represents an almost 20 percent reduction in the number of pots permitted for use in Virginia waters. <Crab License Buyback Press Release>

November 19, 2009:  VDH Emergency Shellfish Closure - Emergency Closure Number 210E, covering selected tributary areas of the Chesapeake Bay has been revised; the closure is now in fewer areas and the closure period has been extended through December 2, 2009. <Closure Notice>

November 9, 2009:
  The Virginia Marine Resources Commission has received 665 bids from commercial crabbers, in a license buyback program aimed at reducing harvest pressure on the Bay's blue crab population as efforts continue to rebuild the stock.  The agency has $6.7 million in federal crab disaster fund to spend in the so-called reverse auction, and the bids totaled $30.4 million.  Decisions on which bids to accept will be made over the next few weeks.  Once accepted, a crabbing license will be permanently retired. <Blue Crab Buy-Back Bid Summary>

November 5, 2009: A new state record for blueline tilefish has been set. A 35-inch long beauty weighing more than 23 pounds was landed by Michael Adkins of Sutherland, and was certified as a new state record by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission's Saltwater Fishing Tournament. This is the second Virginia record-setting catch so far in 2009, the other being an almost 15-pound spadefish.<Press Release>

October 2009

October 29, 2009:  The General Assembly has released a report by the Commission that responds to Senate Joint Resolution 397 pertaining  to meeting the requirements of the National Saltwater Angler Registry.  The report describes options to allow Virginia to participate in the new National Registry after 2009 by providing saltwater recreational fisherman contact data from a revised saltwater licensing system or through an alternate angler registration system.  <SJR 397 Report>

October 27, 2009:  The Virginia Marine Resources Commission has ordered a Lancaster County restaurant owner to remove a 145-foot long commercial pier that was built without a required permit on the Rappahannock River at the mouth of the Greenvale Creek. Some Commissioners said the owner showed "significant disregard" toward the state's permit requirements that protect valuable natural resources.  Also, the Commission rebuffed a request from a waterman's association to open the Greater Wicomico River to oystering next month.  Scientists have spent federal and state money on a multi-million dollar, large-scale, man-made oyster reef project that they say is showing signs of creating a thriving ecosystem in the face of diseases that kill oysters. <Commission Meeting Summary>

October 5, 2009:  A new, improved Saltwater Angler's Guide has been completed by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.  Here you will discover useful tips on fishing, best conservation practices, how to enter our annual saltwater fishing tournament, where to find public boat ramps, the locations of our artificial reefs (they're fish magnets!) and much, much more. Due to state budget constraints, the Angler's Guide will be available online only. [2009 Saltwater Anglers Guide]

September 2009

September 30, 2009:  NOAA closes recreational fishery for black sea bass in EEZ for six months due to overharvest effective 10/5/09.<Closure Notice>

September 22, 2009:
  The Virginia Marine Resources Commission decided to open some oyster grounds a month earlier than usual in order to allow watermen to gain a market advantage from later-than-usual oyster season openings by some Gulf Coast States.  Some of the state's oyster areas will open on Oct. 1 instead of Nov. 1.  The Commission also decided to continue with the third year of a rotational harvest management plan in the Rappahannock River, and a large-sized oyster buyback program from a portion of that river. <Area opening dates><Commission Meeting Summary>

August 2009

August 26, 2009:  Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has reappointed Virginia Marine Resources Commission board members Rick Robins and Carter Fox to additional four year terms.  Mr. Fox, of Northumberland County, is retired CEO of Chesapeake Corporation.  He has a long-standing interest in commercial and recreational fishing and has studied international oyster aquaculture efforts.  Mr. Robins, of Suffolk, is the owner of Bernie’s Conchs on the Eastern Shore.  He is a lifelong recreational angler and avid offshore tournament fisherman. <Commission Board Members Biographies>

August 25, 2009:  The Virginia Marine Resources Commission gave its unanimous approval for the construction of a new bridge across the Elizabeth River, a toll facility that would replace the now-closed Jordan Bridge. Additional regulatory approvals from other agencies are necessary before the bridge can be constructed.  In other action, the Commission agreed to return to a two-fish striped bass limit for the entire fall Chesapeake Bay season.  A one-fish limit had been imposed for two weeks at the end of last year's fall season. <Commission Meeting Summary>

August 14, 2008:  Effective 10:00 A.M., Eastern Standard Time (EST), Monday, August 17, 2009, the Virginia Horseshoe Crab Fishery will close. Based upon landing reports from Virginia seafood buyers and VMRC Law Enforcement, it is projected that Virginia will have caught 100% of 152,495 horseshoe crab quota by the above date and time. <Closure Notice>

August 13, 2008:  Army Corps of Engineer's Record of Decision on the Environmental Impact Statement for Oyster Restoration in the Chesapeake Bay <Decision Document>

July 2009

July 28, 2009:  The Virginia Marine Resources Commission has unanimously approved procurement procedures for a crab license buyback program to begin this fall. The program was unveiled today and will allow commercial crabbers who voluntarily chose to exit the fishery to submit an offer for their licenses. The Commission then will accept or reject each offer. The program is intended to reduce harvest pressure on the blue crab as the population is rebuilt. Payments for licenses accepted for buy back will come from federal disaster funds authorized in the wake of a federal fishery disaster declaration. A public hearing and final vote by the Commission on the program was scheduled for August. <Commission Meeting Summary

July 23, 2009: A 20-pound, 10-ounce blueline tilefish caught June 28, 2009 by Kenneth Bowe of Chester, Virginia has been certified as the new Virginia state record for the species by the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament.  <Press Release>

July 22, 2009:  Hundreds of Peninsula children participated in a pair of recent youth fishing clinics at the James River Bridge that were sponsored by two local public service organizations and partially funded by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.  A variety of public agencies and private organizations were on hand to teach the youngsters how to bait a hook, cast a line and reel in a fish, as well as to educate them on the region's abundant natural resources and the benefits of conservation. Virginia Marine Police Officers and representatives from the Coast Guard demonstrated how to use life vests and gave other marine safety tips.  The children were given fish poles to take home with them at the end of the day.  One event, held July 18, was sponsored by the Coastal Conservation Association in conjunction with the Newport News Rotary Club. The other, on July 21, was sponsored by the Capital District Kiwanis Club.  The Virginia Marine Resources Commission authorized funding for the clinics from fees paid by saltwater anglers because the programs aimed to foster interest in fishing in a potentially new generation of anglers.

July 13, 2009:  Roland E. Murphy of Fredericksburg landed this state record spadefish in June while aboard the "Kingfish," skippered by Allen King. <Press Release>

July 2, 2009:  Six Virginia Marine Resources Commission licenses for recreational use of some commercial fishing gear now will be available for purchase through the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' easy-to-use online or over-the-phone license sales system.  Available for purchase for recreational use will be licenses for fish cast net, fish dip net, crab trotline, 300-foot gill net, eel pots and a crab pot license that allows up to five pots to be set recreationally.  These licenses now can be purchased online at Licenses, by calling 1-866-721-6911 (Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., except holidays) or in person from hundreds of DGIF license agents located around the state.  Licenses are also sold by some clerks of the Circuit Court, or through mail order.  The licenses will continue to be sold by VMRC licensing agents as well.

June 2009:

June 30, 2009:  The federal government has released $2 million in economic stimulus funds for a major seaside Eastern Shore environmental improvement joint project between the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, the Nature Conservancy, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program. Of that money, $1.2 million will be used by the VMRC to create 24 acres of functional oyster reefs, designated as rotational harvest areas on the seaside to provide economic benefits for the watermen of the local seaside communities. <Press Release>

June 23, 2009:  The Virginia Marine Resources Commission unanimously approved the restoration of Factory Point in Hampton, located at the mouth of Back River, and the dredging of the Back River and Long Creek navigation channels. Five breakwaters were also approved to help preserve the restoration of the sand spit that washed out in a storm a decade ago. <Commission Meeting Summary>

June 23, 2009:  The Virginia Marine Resources is now issuing landing permits for grouper and tilefish and has established a method for reporting all catches, as required under a regulation approved in May. For more information, please click here ... <Notice>

June 1, 2009:  The new Buckroe Fishing Pier in Hampton is now open for business. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission appropriated $750,000 to help finance the construction of the 706-foot pier, as part of its mission to promote recreational fishing. The pier is 16 feet wide and features shelters, fish cleaning stations, restrooms, a bait shop and a snack bar. A grand opening ceremony was held May 30. Individual fishing licenses are not required, but there is an admission fee. Here are a few photos and a short video clip as Hampton Mayor Molly Joseph Ward cuts the ribbon to open the pier. <Grand Opening>

May 2009

May 26, 2009: The Virginia Marine Resources Commission has voted unanimously to continue its mult-year blue crab rebuilding program, enacting a Nov. 21 fall harvest closure for female crabs and a continued ban on the winter dredging of crabs. Because a scientific population survey concluded that last year's crab harvest restrictions are showing signs of success, the Commission agreed to waive a scheduled 15 percent reduction in the number of crab pots allowed per license class, and to reinstate the five-pot recreational crab license that was suspended last year, but only permit their use from June 1 to Sept. 15. <Meeting Summary>

May 19, 2009:
The federal government has released $7.5 million in blue crab disaster aid to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, to continue its work to rebuild the depleted crab fishery and to aid out-of-work crab dredgers over the next two years. The National Marine Fisheries Service is reviewing an additional $7.5 million in disaster aid. Governor Timothy M. Kaine announced the release of funds in this press release. <Press Release>

May 14, 2009:  You may fish without a license during the first weekend in June.  Take advantage of the free fishing days, June 5-7, 2009, and spend quality time outdoors with your family and friends for FREE!  The Virginia Marine Resources Commission and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the two state agencies that regulate saltwater and freshwater fishing in the Commonwealth, announce this year's free fishing days in Virginia.  All size, season and catch limits remain in effect.  Here is a press release issued today. <Press Release>

May 11, 2009: Virginia’s one-of-a-kind program to remove derelict crab traps from Chesapeake Bay is yielding important scientific data that will improve next year’s effort to recover these "ghost pots" and further reduce their inadvertent trapping of wildlife. The program, funded by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and implemented by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, paid out-of-work crab dredgers last winter to use side-imaging sonar units to detect and retrieve abandoned crab pots and other marine debris that litter the bottom of Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Watermen were paid $300 a day, and were compensated for their fuel costs. Here is a presentation prepared by VIMS <Presentation> and a press release <Press Release>.

May 8, 2009: 
The Virginia Marine Resources Commission has been honored with the prestigious James C. Wright Memorial Conservation Award from the Virginia Beach Anglers Club. The award was presented to Fisheries Management Senior Manager Joe Grist at the club's May 7 meeting for the agency's development of the Marine Sportfish Collection Project, in which anglers donate the carcasses of several species at designated locations so scientists can study the length, age and sex of the fish.  The program gleans important scientific knowledge on the prevalence, life-span and gender-distribution of these species without doing harm to living fish.

May 8, 2009:  Commissioner Steven G. Bowman is pleased to announce that the Virginia Marine Police's Special Investigations Unit has been honored for the undercover work it did that cracked a large Atlantic Striped Bass poaching ring operating in the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River.  The federal Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission presented its Award of Excellence this week to the unit and all the other law enforcement members who were part of the Interstate Watershed Task Force, which uncovered a widespread conspiracy to underreport striped bass harvests. The investigation resulted in criminal charges against nine individuals and one corporation, with additional charges yet to come. Most of the defendants have pleaded guilty and several have been sentenced to federal prison and/or significant fines. The investigation documented the illegal harvest, sale and purchase of more than 600,000 pounds of striped bass with an estimated value of more than $3 million.

May 7, 2009:  The Crab Management Advisory Committee that was scheduled to be held on Tuesday, May 19, 2009 has been changed to Thursday, May 14, 2009.  The meeting will be held at 6:00 P.M. in the Marine Resources Commission Conference Room, 2600 Washington Avenue, 4th Floor, Newport News, VA.  <Memo>

May 6, 2009:  Virginia Marine Resources Associate Commissioner Mr. Rick Robins Jr. has been presented with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Award of Excellence for his work to bridge the gap between opposing viewpoints on the management and use of horseshoe crabs.  He has represented Virginia on the Horseshoe Crab Advisory Panel since 2000 and was instrumental in developing the male-only strategy as a key provision in the interstate horseshoe crab management plan.  The strategy accommodates the science regarding horseshoe crab spawning and population dynamics, addresses the needs of migratory bird conservation, and allows management of the resource for multiple users.  He worked with the bait and biomedical industries, advocate organizations, and state fishery managers to effectively build consensus on this difficult management issue, aiding the Commission in its ability to prioritize the needs of migratory birds while appropriately limiting commercial use of the horseshoe crab resource.  Rick was appointed to the VMRC by then-Gov. Mark Warner in 2004 and reappointed to a four-year term by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine in 2005.

April 2009

April 28, 2009: The Virginia Marine Resources Commission voted to close the entire blue crab sanctuary from May 1-Sept. 15, sealing a loophole in state law that had allowed a portion of the sanctuary to be open in May, as crabs spawned. The Commission also agreed to consider a menu of potential crab regulation changes next month as part of a multi-year species rebuilding effort. <Meeting Summary>

April 17, 2009:
The Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab population has staged a dramatic rebound as a result of harvest cutbacks enacted by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and Maryland last year. The latest scientific assessment of the Bay-wide crab population shows the number of spawning age females has doubled since 2008, and the number of males has increased by 50 percent. The increase in crab abundance shows the regulation changes are helping to stabilize the population, but more work remains to be done. This press release issued by the governors of both states provides additional details. <Press Release>

April 15, 2009: David Akridge of Virginia Beach, Virginia has established a new state record for blueline tilefish with a 20-pound, 4-ounce fish caught March 19, 2009. <Release>

April 13, 2009: The Virginia Marine Resources Commission has decided to postpone action on proposed 2009 crab regulations until May. <Memo>

April 8, 2009:  Public Notice was given concerning the Public Oyster Ground Hand Tong harvest season in the James River Seed area including the Deep Water Shoal State Replenishment Seed area and James River Jail Island and Point of Shoals Clean Cull areas.  The harvest is hereby extended through June 30, 2009. <Public Notice>

April 8, 2009: The Virginia Auditor of Public Accounts gave Virginia Marine Resources Commission a clean bill of fiscal health in an recently completed financial audit that covers a two-year period the ended on June 30, 2008. The auditors found no problems and had no suggestions for improvement.

March 2009

March 24, 2009: 
The Virginia Marine Resources Commission granted unanimous approval for the removal of 800 cubic yards of goo-contaminated water bottom at Money Point in the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River, and the creation of 1.3 acres man-made tidal marsh and a 3.5-acre oyster reef on the site.  The $1.2 million environmental clean up project by the non-profit Elizabeth River Project will remove toxic creosote that spilled in the 1960s.  The Commission also increased the size limit for Black Sea Bass and set Nov. 30 as last day for crabbing this year. <More>

February 2009

February 25, 2009:  No new regulations are in place for river herring for 2009; currently there are no size, season or possession limits for river herring in Virginia waters. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) recently gathered public comment on Draft Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for River Herring. For more information on the Draft Amendment go to ASMFC’s web site www.asmfc.org or contact Kate Taylor, the Fishery Management Plan Coordinator at (202)289-6400.

February 24, 2009: 
The popular flounder season will not feature a mid-season closing this year under regulations approved by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, which voted to continue the 19-inch, five-fish limit on the tasty fish.  Last summer's recreational flounder season was closed from July 21-30 in order to keep from going over federally mandated harvest quotas.  The 2009 season is open year round. <More

February 19, 2009: In 2008, 17 new anglers achieved Master Angler status while 7 other anglers, advanced to the next level. A total of 39 anglers, who registered six or more species of fish for Citations in 2008, have qualified as Virginia Expert Saltwater Anglers. <Press Release>

February 4, 2009:  Two publications relating to oyster aquaculture and GIS/GPS use at the Commission have recently been released. A Manual for Remote Setting describes commercial oyster aquaculture techniques that have potential to aid the ailing oyster industry.  The manual was funded by the Virginia Fishery Resource Grant Program (www.vims.edu/adv/frg) and was developed by VIMS and MRC staff in conjunction with ten Virginia seafood companies that provided practical information on expectations and expenses for prospective aquaculture ventures.  The recent issue of the Virginia Geospatial Newsletter has an article detailing some of the activities of the Commission's Habitat Management Division/Engineering&Surveying Department to modernize its mapping capabilities through use of geographic information systems (GIS) and geo-positioning systems (GPS). 

January 2009

January 27, 2009: After a lengthy hearing, the Commission approved a permit to redevelop the Urbanna Yachting Center Marina. A total of 139 boat slips are proposed to exist at the marina after completion of the renovations. <More>

January 14, 2009: Anglers registered 5,752 trophy-size fish for Citation awards during the 51st Annual Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament <More>

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