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COMMERCIAL FISHERIES NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 1996

VMRC Fisheries News

NOTE: This newsletter may contain outdated material.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.

DECEMBER 1996


PLANS & STATISTICS
1-800-937-9247

ALL INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS NEWSLETTER IS SUMMARY INFORMATION. PLEASE REFER TO THE REGULATION CITED FOR LEGAL DOCUMENTATION.



THIS NEWSLETTER PROVIDES ONLY A SUMMARY OF MANAGEMENT MEASURES ADOPTED BY THE COMMISSION AND HAS NO LEGAL FORCE OR EFFECT. TO READ THE REQUIREMENTS IN THEIR ENTIRETY, YOU ARE URGED TO OBTAIN A COMPLETE COPY OF THE REGULATIONS BY CALLING STEPHANIE IVERSON 804-247-8067(LOCAL) OR 1-800-937-9247(LONG DISTANCE)


NORTHEAST REGION LANDINGS

As you know our Mandatory Reporting Program has been in effect since 1993. Under this program, there has been a steady increase in VA landings. Based on a NOAA news release, over the past three years (1993-1995) Virginia has ranked third in the Northeast Region with 111.2 million dollars of sales and 776.3 pounds of harvest for 1995. Virginia showed the most revenue growth (69%) over the last two years. We'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the watermen for their cooperation with the Mandatory Reporting Program.

HURRICANE RELIEF

The Dept of Emergency Services has declared the Peninsula, Middle Peninsula, and Northern Neck as disaster areas as a result of the hurricane weather we had in September. Watermen who think they have a claim (i.e. boat damage, lost or damaged gear, etc..) should contact FEMA at 1(800)462-9029 or the HELPLINE AT 1(800)525-0321. When you apply for disaster assistance please have the following available: Social Security Number (including spouse); address and zip code of the damaged home or property; directions to the damaged home or property; and telephone numbers where you can be reached during the day. Watermen have until December 23, 1996 to apply to the SBA for low interest disaster relief loans. You can contact John Oates @ 804-213-3365 or John Pele @ 804-213-3125. If you were out of work for a time you should contact your local Virginia Employment Commission office.

SUMMER FLOUNDER

Effective 10:00p.m., Wednesday, October 30, 1996, the fourth quarter of the Virginia offshore flounder fishery closed. Virginia's quota for the fourth quarter was 532,276 pounds.

STRIPED BASS SUMMARY 4VAC20-252-10 ET.SEQ

On Tuesday, November 26,1996 the Commission held a public hearing to consider changes to the regulation for 1997. The final regulation may be reviewed and copied at the offices of the Commission Monday through Friday from 8:15a.m. to 5:00p.m. Below are items that may be of interest:

COMMERCIAL

Hardship exception letters are due by 12/16/96
Exceptions will be heard 12/17/96 at the Commission Meeting


* The 1997 Commercial season is set for February 1, 1997 - December 31, 1997.

* The 1997 commercial quota is 1,384,000 pounds and 3% will be allocated to exceptions (41,520 pounds).

* January 6, 1997 is the deadline for permit applications.

* January 6, 1997 is the deadline for lottery applications.

* The Lottery will be held January 13, 1997.

STRIPED BASS SUMMARY VR 450-01-0104

* All applicants (priority, waiting list, lottery) must certify that they harvested and sold at least $5000 worth of finfish and/or shellfish in 1995.

* Priority and waiting list applicants can change gear types this year only, as long as the change results in the applicant receiving less tags.

* Requirement for holding gear license in the previous year has been deleted.

* The Commissioner can grant temporary tag transfers in exceptional cases.

* One-half of future quota increases will be used to add people from the waiting list to the fishery.

* Striped Bass spawning reaches will remain closed.

RECREATIONAL

All seasons, size limits and possession limits remain the same in 1997.

* Trophy: 1 fish - 32" or greater - May 1 - May 15

* Slot: 2 fish - 18-28" - May 16 - June 15

* Fall: 2 fish - 18" - October 17 - December 31

ASMFC STRIPED BASS
PUBLIC HEARINGS

Jan. 7, 1997 at 7:00p.m. in LaPlata, MD at the Government Center - Auditorium
***********************************
Jan. 6, 1997 at 7:00p.m. in Newport News, VA at the VMRC Commission Room, 2600 Washington Ave, 4th Floor, Newport News, VA
Call 1-800-937-9247 for more information.
************************************
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) is holding public hearings up and down the East Coast to gather comments on whether or not the Striped bass quotas in the Chesapeake Bay area should be increased. NOW IS THE TIME to let the ASMFC know if there are stripers in the Chesapeake Bay, and if you want a higher quota.


PINGERS IN VIRGINIA

What is a Pinger? How did pingers get to Virginia? What does a pinger look and sound like? Why would I be interested in a pinger? How can I find out about pingers?

VMRC Fisheries Management staff, in conjunction with the Virginia Coastal Program and NOAA initiated the study on the use of pingers in Virginia waters during the spring and summer of 1996. A workshop, dealing with pinger issues and lessons learned during 1996 will be conducted on February 1, 1997 FROM 1-5p.m. at the Virginia Marine Science Museum; 717 General Booth Blvd, Virginia Beach, VA 23451. All interested individuals are encouraged to call 1-800-937-9247 if you would like to attend.

Now to address your curiosity. Essentially, Pingers are "alarms" placed on nets in the area. Over ten years of effort have been devoted to the development and evaluations of devices to minimize marine mammal incidental takings. One of the most promising outcomes of this effort has been the development and refinement of pingers. Pingers were originally designed by animal behaviorists to reduce whale collisions with cod traps in Newfoundland. These acoustical devices are placed on gear to warn off and reduce entanglement of marine mammals, specifically, harbor porpoises.

A cooperative experiment between fishermen, scientists, conservationists, foundations and the National Marine Fisheries Service was conducted in the Gulf of Maine in the fall of 1994 and 1995 and off the coast of northern Washington in the summer of 1995. These studies support the effectiveness of pingers and indicates a striking contrast for harbor porpoise interaction between the use of pingered and non-pingered nets. It is unknown why pingers apparently prevent the bycatch of some marine mammals. Further testing is needed to determine why interaction is reduced and if this response will continue over time.

Thirty species of marine mammals have been recorded as strandings or live observations in Virginia. Eight of these marine mammals are listed or proposed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. One additional marine mammal is listed as depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The waters of Chesapeake Bay, its tributaries and our territorial seas, therefore play a significant seasonal role in contributing to the global recovery of these species.

The NMFS has appointed "Take Reduction Teams" to evaluate fisheries under the MMPA. These plans could effect coastal and lower bay fishermen and will be covered at the February 1st workshop.




HIGHLIGHTED SPECIES

"CROAKER"

Croaker (micropogon micropogonias undulatus) also known as "Hardhead"; "King Billy" - Color greenish or grayish silvery above, silvery white below, highly iridescent in life; back and sides with numerous brassy or brownish spots arranged in oblique, wavy bars on sides, becoming less distinct in large individuals. The croaker is most readily recognized by the inferior mouth and the series of short barbels on each side of the chin. In this species both sexes are capable of making a croaking sound. The croaking sound may be heard for a considerable distance. Their spawning season is a long one, extending from August to December. The croaker is one of the most valuable and abundant food fishes landed in Virginia. In 1995 7,316,191 pounds were landed with a value of $2,985,212. In 1995 it ranked #1 in pounds landed and #2 in value for Virginia.

YEAR
POUNDS
VALUE
1995
7,316,191
$2,985,212
1994
6,043,326
$2,146326
1993
5,325,373
$1,869,729

Croaker Chart



Croaker's pounds and value have steadily risen over the last few years. It is one of the few species that all fishermen are able to harvest and their season availability is quite extensive (late March-November). Croaker historically have been plentiful in our waters. So to a species that might not get much press we dedicate this time. Happy croaker fishing!!

PEELER VS. SOFT CRABS

On August 15, 1996 a letter was sent to all holders of crab pots, peeler pots, scrapes and crab pound licenses. The intent of this letter was to clear up a problem we had noticed over the last three years.


PLEASE REPORT THE NUMBER OF PEELERS, AND ALSO THE NUMBER OF SOFT CRABS HARVESTED!!


We have received reports with just soft crabs sold to dealers instead of the number of peelers harvested from the gear. If you catch soft crabs in your gear, please report them. We'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the watermen who have either responded through calls or corrected reports that have been sent to the office. Your response has been very encouraging and we feel the confusion has been corrected. If there are any watermen who are unsure of how to accurately report their peelers and soft crabs please contact the office and ask for Stephanie Iverson @804-247-8067.

MARINE IMPROVEMENT FUND REPORT

The Marine Improvement Fund (MIF) was set up to fund projects that would benefit Commercial watermen and improve their fisheries. Below is a list of projects that are ongoing or completed since the MIF was set up in 1993.

Ongoing Projects:

Economic Study of VA Commercial Seafood Industry

Watermen's Regulation Handbook

Hard Clam Broodstock Area in James River

5 Clam Broodstock Areas

Genetic Markers for Weakfish

Evaluation of Fixed Gear for Capture of Summer Flounder

Feasibility of Commercial Shrimp Harvest

Alosa Juvenile Index

Winter Dredge Fishery: Impact on Blue Crab Spawning Stock

Completed Projects:

Shad Restoration Project in James and Pamunkey Rivers

Bagless Dredging, Rappahannock River

Fish Passage, James River

Study of Hard Clams in the Elizabeth River

Commercial Fishing Public Education Campaign - by Seafood Products Board

COMMERCIAL FISHING IN

VIRGINIA'S TIDAL WATERS

AMBERJACK - Regulation 4VAC20-510

Min Size Limit.........32 inches total length.

Possession Limit.......2 amberjack per person.

AMERICAN EEL - Regulation 4VAC20-500

Min Size Limit...........6 inches total length.

AMERICAN SHAD - Reg. 4VAC20-530

MORATORIUM...Unlawful for any person to catch or possess American shad from the Chesapeake Bay or its tidal tributaries.

OPEN FISHERY...Only in Virginia's portion of the Territorial Sea (east of the Colregs Remarcation Line).

BLACK DRUM - (Drum, Drumfish) -Reg. 4VAC20-320

Min Size Limit..........16 inches total length

Possession Limit........All hook & line fishermen are limited to 1 black drum per person

Harvest Quota............120,000 pounds per year from Virginia's tidal waters.

Permit Required.........All fishermen need to obtain a Black Drum Harvest/Selling Permit in order to catch, sell or possess black drum.

BLUEFISH - Reg. 4VAC20-450

Possession Limit....All hook & line fishermen are limited to 10 bluefish per person.

Landings Quota....913,788 pounds for 1996 from any waters.

COBIA (Bonita) - Reg. 4VAC20-510

Min Size Limit...37 inches total length.

Possession Limit....2 cobia per person.

GREY TROUT (Weakfish) - Reg. 4VAC20-380

Hook & Line Fishery..14 inch minimum size limit and a 14 fish possession limit per person.

Gill Net Fishery..12 inch minimum size limit; no possession of grey trout May 14-Oct. 7 and Dec. 18 through Mar. 31. During the CLOSED SEASON, you can possess up to 150 pounds of grey trout of 12 inches or greater.

Pound Net Fishery...No possession of grey trout May 1-22, and Sept. 13 through Mar. 31; See 4VAC20-380-50 for exceptions. During the CLOSED SEASON, you can possess up to 150 pounds of grey trout of 12 inches or greater.

Haul Seine Fishery...No possession of grey trout April 1-15, June 11 through Aug. 20, and Sep. 25 through Mar. 31. During the CLOSED SEASON, you can possess up to 150 pounds of grey trout of 12 inches or greater.

Trawl Fishery...Unlawful to land grey trout in VA less than 12 inches and to have a trawl net cod-end with mesh less than 3 inches. Closed season on landing grey trout by trawler is Sep. 26 through Mar. 31. During the CLOSED SEASON, you can possess a bycatch of up to 150 pounds of grey trout of 12 inches or greater.

Other Gear Types......9 inch minimum size limit.

KING MACKEREL - Reg. 4VAC20-540

Min. Size Limit...14 inches total length, except that a licensed pound net may take or possess king mackerel less than 14 inches total length.

RED DRUM (Puppy Drum) - Reg. 4VAC20-280

Slot Size Limit..18 inch min and 27 inch max size limits (total length).

Possession Limit...Any person is limited to 5 red drum, only 1 of which may exceed 27 inches total length.

SCUP (Porgy) - Reg. 4VAC20-910

Min Size Limit....9 inches total length.

SHARKS(All species of shark excluding dogfish) - Reg. 4VAC20-490

Possession Limit..All hook & line and spear fishermen are limited to 1 shark per person.

Catch Limit...A vessel may not land or have on board any more than 7500 pounds of shark carcasses per day. Longlining and finning sharks are prohibited; however, fins may be removed at sea provided the carcass of the shark is retained and counted as part of any possession or landing limit.

SPANISH MACKEREL - Reg. 4VAC20-540

Min Size Limit..14 inches total length.

Catch Limit..No person may land more than 3500 pounds of Spanish mackerel per vessel per trip.

SPECKLED TROUT - Reg. 4VAC20-280

Min Size Limit..14 inches total length.

Possession Limit...All hook & line fisherman are limited to 10 speckled trout per person

Pound Net and Haul Seine Fisheries..up to 5% tolerance (speckled trout under 14 inches) by weight.

Harvest Quota..51,104 pounds for Sept. through Aug., for each 12 month period.

STRIPED BASS (Rockfish) - Reg. 4VAC20-250

It is unlawful for any person to engage in the commercial fishery for striped bass without first having obtained the necessary fisherman's registration license, appropriate gear license and the special permit to fish for striped bass. The minimum size limit and season restrictions must be observed and all commercially harvested striped bass must be identified with a tamper evident sealed tag that has been approved and issued by the appropriate authority in the jurisdiction of capture.

STURGEON - Code Section 28.2-303

It is unlawful to take, catch or possess any sturgeon.

SUMMER FLOUNDER - Reg. 4VAC20-620

Min Size Limit...13 inches total length. Possession Limit...All hook & line fishermen are limited to 8 summer flounder per person. Harvest Quota..300,000 lbs per yr from VA tidal waters.

COMPLIANCE

The majority of watermen have done a terrific job of reporting their catch accurately. Unfortunately, there have been a few watermen who have not always complied. In 1996 we implemented a comprehensive compliance program. We are not just interested in whether you reported or not; we are also investigating, the accuracy of reported information. You are required to report what you remove and keep from Virginia's waters by the fifth day of the next month. When watermen have failed to do so, Commission action has ranged from six month probation periods to revocation of commercial and all related gear licenses for a period of one year, followed by probation.

VMRC ON THE INTERNET

To all you computer buffs out there VMRC is proud to announce the debut of our own homepage in December, on the internet. The address is: http://www.state.va.us/mrc/homepage.htm; have fun surfing the net!

KEEP OUR WORKPLACE CLEAN

The Virginia Marine Products Board will kick off the new year with a program to raise the visibility of the Virginia seafood industry and promote the industry in its own backyard. We plan to create many opportunities to place a spotlight on the watermen of Virginia and to educate Virginians' about their contribution to the state.

First, the board is distributing free bumper stickers with the environment message--Keep Our Workplace Clean from Virginia's Watermen. These "mini billboards" will act as the voice of the watermen asking people to work with us to keep our environment clean. Watermen are encouraged to place them on their cars, boats and coolers. We will also distribute bumper stickers through commercial license agents, the top saltwater agents and during presentations by the Virginia Marine Products Board's speaker bureau.

To further support the commercial fishing industries concerns about the environment and the health of the Bay, we are producing and distributing color posters with a message that tells citizens what they need to do to improve water quality. These are quick tips that anyone can do whether they live in Reedville or Roanoke. We will send posters to license agents, fishing piers, tackle shops, museums and libraries for display. We will also distribute them to legislators to remind them that their vote has an impact in the watermen of Virginia.

To receive free bumpers stickers, call or write Virginia Marine Products Board, 554 Denbigh Blvd., Suite B, Newport News, VA 23608, tel:757-874-3474, fax:757-886-0671.

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