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COMMERCIAL FISHERIES NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 1999

NOTE: This newsletter may contain outdated material.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

FEBRUARY 1999

PLANS & STATISTICS

1-800-937-9247

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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 REGULATION BY CALLING 757-247-2248; or accessing the VMRC HOMEPAGE: http://www.mrc.virginia.gov

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INSIDE.....

 

* REGULATORY CHANGES

4 VAC 20-720-10 et seq., "Pertaining To Restrictions On Oyster Harvest"

4 VAC 20-960 -10 et seq., "Pertaining To Tautog"

4 VAC 20-560-10 et seq., "Pertaining To Shellfish Management Areas"

4 VAC 20-1020-10 et seq., "Pertaining To Bay Scallops"

* PUBIC HEARINGS

Pound Net -No fishing Zone

Summer Flounder - Recreational Harvest

The Harvest of Horseshoe Crabs

* MANDATORY REPORTING & COMPLIANCE ISSUES

* CURRENT EVENTS

Veined Rapa Whelk

Offshore Summer Flounder Quota

Virginia Landings

* VMRC Calendar

 

REGULATION CHANGES

The Commission recently made the following regulation changes:

4 VAC 20-720-10 et seq., "PERTAINING TO RESTRICTIONS ON OYSTER HARVEST"

4 VAC 20-720-40 OPEN SEASON AND AREAS:

The lawful seasons and areas for the harvest of oysters from the public oyster grounds and unassigned grounds are as follows:

A. James River Seed Area: October 1, 1998 through April 30, 1999.

B. James River Jail Island and Point of Shoals Clean Cull Areas: October 1, 1998 through April 30, 1999.

C. Seaside of Eastern Shore: for clean cull oysters only, November 1, 1998 through January 31, 1999.

 

4 VAC 20-720-80 QUOTAS AND CATCH LIMITS:

A. In the James River Seed Areas there shall be an oyster harvest quota of 80,000 bushels of seed oysters. It shall be unlawful for any person to harvest seed oysters from the James River Seed Area after the 80,000 bushel quota has been reached. In the James River Seed and Clean Cull areas there shall be an oyster harvest quota of 15,000 bushels of market oysters. It shall be unlawful for any person to harvest market oysters from the James River Seed and Clean Cull areas after the 15,000 bushel quota has been reached.

Reimbursement For Oyster Transferral:

The Commission voted for authorization to pay watermen to harvest 2,500 bushels of presumable disease-resistant oysters from Pocomoke-Tangier Sounds and near Gwynn's Island and transfer them to artificial reefs in the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula.

Emergency Oyster Season Extension:

The Commission voted to extend the oyster season for Tangier and Pocomoke Sound Area. This additional time for harvest is established in an effort to compensate watermen in the area for days lost because of bad weather conditions that prohibited them from being able to utilize all possible work days during the month of December, 1998.

The effective date of this emergency regulation is February 1, 1999. This emergency regulation shall terminate on February 13, 1999.

 

 

EMERGENCY REGULATION 4 VAC 20-720-106: Additional Harvest Season For The Tangier And Pocomoke Sound Area.

A. During the period of February 1, 1999 through February 12, 1999 the area, as described in Subdivision 4VAC 20-720-105B.1, shall be open to the taking of oysters.

B. Quotas and Catch Limits are established as described by Subdivisions and 2 of this subsection:

1. The total season quota shall be 2,000 bushels.

2. There shall be a harvest limit of 10 bushels per boat per day.

C. The Commissioner shall be authorized to close the area to the taking of oysters when the total season quota is harvested or the average catch per boat per day is 9 bushels or less.

D. After the additional harvest season has closed, it shall be unlawful for any oysters to be harvested from the oyster grounds in the area described in Subdivision 4VAC 20-105B.1

4 VAC 20-960 "PERTAINING TO TAUTOG"

4 VAC 20-960-45. RECREATIONAL FISHING SEASON AND POSSESSION LIMITS:

A. It shall be unlawful for any person fishing with hook-and-line, rod-and-reel, spear, gig or other recreational gear to possess more than seven tautog. When fishing is from a boat or vessel where the entire catch is held in a common hold or container, the possession limit shall be for the boat or vessel and shall be equal to the number. The captain or operator of the boat or vessel shall be responsible for any boat or vessel possession limit. Any tautog taken after the possession limit has been reached shall be returned to the water immediately.

B. Possession of any quantity of tautog which exceeds the possession limit described in subsection A of this section shall be presumed to be for commercial purposes.

C. The recreational fishing season shall be open through the year.

4 VAC 20-560-10 et seq., "PERTAINING TO SHELLFISH MANAGEMENT AREAS"

4 VAC 20-560-40. PATENT TONG SEASON.

D. The lawful season for the harvest clams by patent tong from the Newport News Shellfish Management Area shall be December 1 through March 15.

4 VAC 20-560-50. TIME OF DAY AND HARVEST RESTRICTIONS.

E. It shall be unlawful for any person to harvest clams by patent tong from the Newport News Shellfish Management Area before sunrise or after 1:00 PM

F. It shall be unlawful for any person to possess any amount of hard clams from the Newport News Shellfish Management Area or the Hampton Roads Shellfish Relay Area which consists of more than 2 percent by number of clams, which can be passed through a 1 3/8" inside diameter cull ring. The 2 percent allowance shall be measured by the Marine Patrol Officer from each container or pile of clams.

4 VAC 20-1020-10 et seq. "PERTAINING TO BAY SCALLOPS"

A. It shall be unlawful for any person to take, harvest, possess or attempt to take or harvest any bay scallop from Virginia waters.

B. Nothing in this regulation shall prohibit the taking or possession of hatchery raised bay scallops from any aquaculture facility.

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NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARINGS

The following public hearings will be held at the main office of The Virginia Marine Resources Commission on February 23, 1999. An additional public hearing on the recreational harvest of summer flounder will also be held at the Eastern Shore Community College in Melfa on February 16, 1999 at 7 PM.

Proposed amendments to Regulation 4 VAC 20-620-10 et seq., "Pertaining to Summer Flounder":

1. The minimum size of Summer Flounder harvested by recreational fishing gear, including but not limited to hook-and-line, rod-and-reel, spear and gig, shall be 16 inches, total length.

2. The season for the harvest of summer flounder by recreational fishermen shall be closed from July 25, 1999 through July 31, 1999 and from December 1, 1999 through February 28, 2000. It shall be unlawful for any person fishing recreationally to take, harvest, or possess summer flounder during the closed seasons.

Proposed amendments to Regulation 4 VAC 20-20-35, "No-Fishing Zone":

A. The prohibited fishing zone around any pound net shall consist of that area bounded by two straight lines, 100 feet from the left and right sides of the centerline of the head of the net, which extend parallel with the longest axis of the net from the channelward end of the head of the net to the shoreward end of the leader of the net.

B. It shall be unlawful for any person fishing from a boat or vessel to anchor, drift troll, or otherwise to fish within, or to cast into the prohibited fishing zone of any pound net which is marked according to the provisions of paragraph C., below. Further, it shall be unlawful for any person to take or harvest crabs from any part of a pound net marked according to the provisions of paragraph C., below, unless such a person has the written permission of the owner of the pound net.

C. If the owner of a pound net intends that the prohibited fishing zone be enforced around his pound net, that owner shall mark the zone with four buoys placed approximately at the corners of the prohibited fishing zone such that a buoy is placed 100 feet from both the left and right sides of the centerline of the head of the net and extends no further than the channelward edge of the head of the net and a buoy is placed at both opposite corners extending no further than the shoreward end of the leader of the net. Each buoy shall consist of an upright anchored flagstaff bearing a blaze-orange flag, 12 inches high and 12 inches wide, and a mast of sufficient size to maintain the bottom of the flag at least three feet above the surface of the water.

D. It shall be unlawful for any person to tamper with any buoy marking the prohibited fishing zone of any pound net.

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HORSESHOE CRAB HARVESTERS!!

In response to possible quotas on horseshoe crab harvests, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission is requesting all watermen to review their records and submit any data relating to horseshoe crabs which may have been inadvertently left off the harvest reports. Those of you who harvest horseshoe crabs for bait or personal use must also report. Please make every effort to be accurate as the Virginia Marine Resources Commission will validate this harvest.

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NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARINGS CONTINUED.....

Proposed amendments to Regulation 4VAC 20-900-10 et seq., "Pertaing to Horseshoe Crab"

A. Monitoring Requirements

1. Any person harvesting or landing horseshoe crabs in Virginia shall report monthly on forms provided by the Commission all harvests of horeshoe crabs, including, but not limited to bait fisheries, bycatch, biomedical industry, and scientific and educational research harvest. Reporting requirements shall consist of numbers and pounds landed by sex, harvest method and harvest location.

2. Persons harvesting horseshoe crabs for biomedical use and owners of facilities using horseshoe crabs for biomedical purposes shall monitor and report monthly to the Commission all harvests or purchases of horseshoe crabs and the percent of mortality up to the point of release including that mortality which occurs during harvest, shipping, handling, and bleeding.

3. Owners of biomedical facilities using horseshoe crabs shall participate in the tagging program of the Commission to evaluate the post-release mortality of horseshoe crabs.

B. Commercial Fisheries Management Measures

1. The harvest and landing of horseshoe crabs in Virginia in 1999 shall be limited, by quota, to a level not less than the 1997 harvest of 52,773 pounds of horseshoe crabs.

2. It shall be unlawful for any person to harvest horseshoe crabs within 1,000 feet of mean low water, on Mondays and Tuesdays during the period April 15 through June 15 of each year.

3. The harvests of horseshoe crabs for biomedical use shall not be subject to the limitations contained B)1. and 2. , above.

4. Harvests for biomedical puposes shall require shall require a special permit issued by the Commissioner of Marine Resources and all crabs taken pursuant to such permit shall be returned to the same waters from which they were collected.

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FISH FACTS

1. Contrary to popular belief, shellfish are NOT high in cholesterol. Shellfish also have a fat content of less than 5%.

2. Fish oils are believed to help in the prevention of heart attacks and strokes because certain fatty acids in fish oils reduce the clotting tendency of blood.

3. The dark meat of fish contain more vitamins than the white meat.

4. According to the U.S. Food and Drug standards, most seafood is considered to be "low sodium".

5. Because oysters are so high in iron, they are recommended for people with anemia.

 

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MANDATORY REPORTING

We would like to thank all of those who are filling out the forms for the harvest reports correctly. There are however, a few recurring errors we would like to bring to your attention:

1. Please do not cut the forms into daily tickets

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

3. Include the hours your gear was in the water, not the hours it took you to pull your gear.

4. Please do not put different dates, multiple gears and water bodies on the same ticket. It should be clear what species came out of each gear and waterbody each day.

5. Please do not put different dates, multiple gears and water bodies on the same ticket. It should be clear what species came out of each gear and waterbody each day.

COMPLIANCE

The Commission takes "failure to report" very seriously. For failure to report under regulation 4 VAC 20-610-60 "MANDATORY HARVEST REPORTING"

A harvest report is NOT a sales report. If you catch it and keep it you must report it whether you sell it or not!

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THE VEINED RAPA WHELK UPDATE

It was recently discovered that an exotic whelk species has invaded the Hampton Roads area. The Veined Rapa whelk (Rapana venosa), is a native to the Sea of Japan and can reach up to 7 inches in length. It was probably introduced to the Hampton Roads area from the ballast water of a cargo ship.

Researchers are concerned because the Asian whelk species has a high tolerance to salinity changes, a high reproductive rate, and has no natural predators in the area. If they become established, these creatures may out compete the native whelk species and pose a potential threat to oysters and clams as shellfish are their main diet.

If you think you have found a Rapa whelk, contact Dr. Roger Mann at VIMS by phone (804)684-7360 or electronic mail (rmann@vims.edu). Please make sure to give a contact name and phone number so they can return your call.

There is currently a bounty on the Rapa whelk, at a rate of $2 per whelk (live or empty shell). Please try to keep the whelk alive by placing it in a bucket with river water. To be eligible for the bounty, you must give the following information:

1. Date of collection

2. Specific collection location

3. Bottom type at collection site

4. Water depth at collection site

5. Name, phone number & address of collector

OFFSHORE SUMMER FLOUNDER QUOTA

Effective 10 AM, Eastern Standard Time (EST), Thursday February 4, 1999, the First Quarter of the Virginia Directed Offshore Summer Flounder Fishery will close. Based upon landing reports from the National Marine Fisheries Service, Virginia seafood buyers and VMRC Law Enforcement, its is projected that Virginia will have landed 85% (1,130,577 pounds) of its First of 1,330,090 pounds of Summer Flounder by the above date and time.

After 10 AM, EST, February 4, 1999, landing of Summer Flounder harvested from Federal waters, or the waters of any other state (this includes the by-catch from federal waters or the waters of any other state by all gears), in Virginia shall be limited to no more than 10% by weight of all other landed species on board the vessel.

Vessels which have entered Virginia waters and secured to their offloading site prior to 10 AM, EST, Thursday, February 4, 1999 may possess and land 5,000 pounds of Summer Flounder.

All vessels entering Virginia waters to land Summer Flounder for commercial puposes at or after 10 AM, EST, Thursday, February 4, 1999 shall not possess Summer Flounder in excess of 10% by weight of all other landed species on board the vessel.

If you have questions or comments contact Lewis Gillingham at (757) 491-5160.

 

HIGHLIGHTED SPECIES

"STRIPED BASS"

(Morone saxatilis)

 

BACKGROUND

The striped bass (Morone saxatilis) commonly referred to as rockfish, rock, striper, or linesider, has historically been one of the most important recreational and commercial fishes on the East Coast. Striped bass are silver with dark olive-green or gray on the back and seven or eight black horizontal stripes along the sides.

The species was first discovered in the 17th century when colonists settled the New World. The scientific name (Morone saxatilis) means "rock dweller" because they were first observed spawning among rocks of Piedmont waterways. Stripers were once so abundant that the colonists used the fish to fertilize their fields. In 1669, revenues from the fishery were used to build the first public schoolhouse in North America. Over fishing, even in colonial times, caused a drastic decline in striped bass, resulting in the need to regulate the fishery. Once it was realized that the striped bass population was in trouble, the Massachusetts Bay colonists were prohibited from using striped bass as fertilizer.

HABITAT

Striped bass are frequently found in shallow bays, estuaries, and along shorelines. They are native to the East Coast ranging from the lower St. Lawrence River in Canada to northern Florida and along portions of the Gulf of Mexico. The species was recently introduced into rivers, lakes, and reservoirs throughout the southeastern United States as well as in California, the Soviet Union, and South Africa.

 

Striped bass are opportunistic or upper-level predators, capable of foraging on a wide variety of prey organisms. Their diet may consist of anything from finfish to crustaceans, depending on the availability of the food resources.

MIGRATION

Coastal striped bass are anadromous fish, which means the adults spend the majority of their life along the coast but migrate to tidal fresh water to reproduce. Atlantic Coast migratory striped bass generally tend to move north in the ocean during the summer, and southward and inshore in the winter. Some winter in their native or other mid-Atlantic coastal rivers while others congregate on wintering grounds located off shore in depths up to 60 feet.

REPRODUCTION

Reproduction occurs in the spring and early summer when the water temperatures of the tidal fresh water rivers reach 60 to 70 degrees F. Most scientists believe that mature striped bass return to the river from which they were hatched in order to spawn. A large percent of the striped bass on the Atlantic Coast utilize the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries as their primary spawning and nursery ground.

Sexual maturation of striped bass appears to be related to latitude or ambient temperatures, with fish from southern waters generally maturing at an earlier age than those from regions to the north. Males reach sexual maturity at ages 2-3. Females may spawn as early as age four, but may not reach complete sexual maturity until age eight years or older (approximately 34 inches). The older females appear to spawn earlier in the season than the younger fish.

When striped bass spawn, one female may be accompanied by 10 to 50 males. The fish leap and splash on top of the water as eggs are released and fertilized. This phenomenon is known as a "rock fight". Spawning activity seems to be greatest at dusk and dawn and usually lasts several hours.

Striped bass eggs change color as they develop. Initially the eggs appear to be a light cream or cream yellow, turning a yellowish green and then bright grass green as the time of ovulation approaches. Eggs spawned in a situation where salinities are high are typically smaller in diameter than those released in freshwater.

A six year old female striper produces 500,000 eggs; a 15 year old striper can produce as many as 3-4 million eggs. Young females produce eggs which are of lower quality than those of older females. Therefore, management regimes which increase the percentage of older females participating in annual spawning runs will likely enhance reproductive success.

LIFE STAGES

Larvae hatch about 48 hours after spawning. Prolarvae obtain their nourishment from the large yolk sac and large oil globule which is suspended under the forward half of the body as they move downstream with the current. Without the constant motion of the current, the larvae would settle to the bottom and perish. After 2-3 days, the Prolarvae swim continuously and are able to maintain position within the water column. Larval striped bass initially feed only on planktonic organisms. Toward the end of the larval stage, they feed on small crustaceans.

After their arrival in the nursery areas, they mature into juveniles. At least 3-4 weeks after hatching, approximately 30 mm, the juvenile fish have acquired most of the features of adult fish. At a size of 50-80mm, some 80-90 days after hatching, striped bass fingerlings are very mobile and exhibit definite schooling behavior.

Initially, young striped bass feed almost entirely on invertebrates. During their second summer they begin including small fish in their diets, and by the following fall, they are eating fish and invertebrates in about equal number. By their third year they primarily eat fish. They remain in coastal sounds and estuaries for two to four years, and then they migrate to the Atlantic ocean.

GROWTH RATE

Growth rates of striped bass are variable, depending on a combination of location, age and competition as well as environmental factors such as food availability, temperatures, salinity etc. Small striped bass accomplish almost 50% of their yearly growth between late April and early July.

Striped bass are a relatively long-lived species, with some females reaching 20 years of age or more. Females grow larger than males, and most fish older than 11 years and longer than about 39 inches or weighing over 30 pounds are females. There have been rockfish caught that weigh over 100 pounds. The largest rockfish ever recorded in Virginia was caught in 1996 in the Chesapeake Bay and weighed 61 lbs 12 oz.

 

POPULATION RECOVERY

Declining numbers of striped bass in the last two decades has been a major challenge for fishermen and fishery managers alike. Regulating both the catch and season, and in extreme cases, closing the season altogether, has allowed the numbers of striped bass to recover. While fishery managers can take some credit, the support of the entire fishing community has been essential. All segments of the fishery sacrificed to make the recovery possible. Continued support by sport anglers and commercial fishermen will help maintain a healthy striped bass fishery, provide a blueprint for management of other coastal fisheries, and provide fun and food for future generations.

 

 

** STRIPED BASS HEALTH UPDATE **

Although the majority of striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay are healthy, there has been some concern about an increase in the number of fish that appear to be malnurished.

There are several theories as to why this is happening. For starters, the number of striped bass has increased significantly which means they will require a greater amount of food to support their growing population. Striped bass are also eating more because the warmer than normal surface waters causes an increase in the energy requirements of the fish. There is also some concern that there has been a decrease in the important food resources which help build the fat reserves of striped bass.

Some people have been concerned about skin lesions found on fish in the Chesapeake Bay. According to various agencies, the incidence of lesions on fish has not been unusually high and there is no indication that fish populations are facing a serious problem. Skin lesions on fish may be caused by a number of different sources including physical injury from fishing gear or predators, viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi, or toxic chemicals. It is often very difficult to determine the actual cause of a lesion unless the fish is captured while still alive.

VMRC CALENDAR

FEBRUARY

FINFISH: February 17, 7pm, Commission main office

VMRC: February 16, 7pm, Eastern Shore Community College, Melfa

VMRC: February 23 Commission Mtg 9:30am

MARCH

FINFISH: March 16, 7pm,

Commission main office

VMRC: March 23 Commission Mtg 9:30am

 

 

APRIL

FINFISH: April 20, 7pm, Commission main office

VMRC: April 27, 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 for the meeting locations. (The city and state change for each meeting).

ASMFC - Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Call (202)452-9110 for 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

 

 

 

 

VMRC CALANDER

December:

VMRC: December 21,

Commission Mtg. 9:30am

January:

FINFISH: January 19,

Commission Office, 7pm

VMRC: January 26,

Commission Mtg. 9:30am

February:

MAFMC: February 2-4,

New York City, (302)674-2331

FINFISH: February 16,

Commission Office7pm

VMRC: February 23,

Commission Mtg. 9:30am

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