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THE CHESAPEAKE BAY NEEDS YOUR HELP NOW

VMRC Public Hearing on New Regulations for the Commercial Haul Seine Fishery

We urge you to contact VMRC and provide your opinions on the establishment of a new set of regulations for the haul seine fishery. A simple letter is sufficient to let them know your opinion about this issue. Only through your input will the Commission know how the public feels about these changes. A sample letter is included in this release, feel free to use it as a starting point for your comments to the Commission. Mail, fax or email them to:

Jack Travelstead
Virginia Marine Resources Commission
2600 Washington Avenue
Newport news, Va 23607.

Email -- [email protected]

Fax at 757-247-8101

Please include your name and mailing address with your comment.

The public hearing will be held on Tuesday June 24th after 12:00 at the VMRC office on the corner of 26th Street and Washington Avenue in Newport News, VA. The meeting is open to the public and comments will be taken at that time.

IT IS IMPORTANT THAT RECREATIONAL FISHERMEN AND OTHER CONSERVATION MINDED INDIVIDUALS ATTEND THIS MEETING AND VOICE THEIR CONCERNS.

CCA VA does not normally specifically request that individuals attend and voice their opinions. However, it is especially important for this particular issue. Any letters, emails, and faxes received by VMRC Staff prior to Tuesday June 17th will be provided to the Commissioners prior to the meeting. Those received prior to noon on the 23rd will be provided to them at the public hearing.

BACKGROUND:

A haul seine is a twine net between a few hundred feet long and 3000 feet long and approximately 10 feet deep. The bottom line is weighted with lead and the top line has cork floats. When used from a beach, one end remains anchored on the beach at all times. When used in open water one, end might be anchored or each end is attached to a separate boat. Once the circle of the net is closed, the open water nets make use of a pocket, which is much like a pound net head having three sides and a bottom, in order to concentrate the fish for harvest. In 2001, of 70 license holders, 32 reported landings.

7 harvesters* landed between $50,000 and $130,000 averaging $78,000.
9 harvesters* landed between $10,000 and $40,000 averaging $18,000
16 harvesters landed between $100 and $6,000 averaging $2,000
*Note it takes 4 to 6 individuals to work a large haul seine rig.

The total harvest was 2,943,000 pounds of finfish with a dockside value of $752,000

Top landings by species (pounds landed) were:
Croaker 2,216,090
Spot 222,321
Baitfish 212,625
Gizzard Shad 67,476
Bluefish 57,189
Grey Trout 54,274
Minnows 46,194
Carp 28,300

The issue of haul seines and the appropriate use of the gear has been going on for many, many years. About two years ago on an appeal of a conviction of pair trawling, it was decided that a definition in state code is not an enforceable law as there is no penalty clause associated with a definition. In addition to overturning a number of convictions in lower courts, it made it almost impossible to press charges for pair trawling. At about the same time as that occurred, a study was completed by VIMS entitled "Boat Scarring Effects on Submerged Aquatic Vegetation in Virginia (Year 1)" which provided clear evidence that the boats used in the haul seine fishery were damaging the Sub Aqueous Vegetation (SAV) beds through prop scarring. VMRC requested that the definition in code be changed during the last general assembly session so that these two issues could be addressed. CCA VA supported that legislative change for VMRC. The plan is to have new regulations in place by July 1st, which is when the new definition becomes effective.

Representatives from CCA VA had several meetings with VMRC staff concerning these issues over the past several years. The most recent meeting was on June 2, at which representatives from CCA VA, The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and local fishing clubs met with VMRC Staff, and a VIMS scientist to discuss the proposed regulations and the latest results from the SAV damage studies. The next meeting at which this will be discussed is the VMRC Fisheries Management Advisory Committee meeting on June 16th at 7:00 PM. The matter will be decided at the June 24th VMRC Commission meeting.

For more background information on this issue and aerial photographs go to the CCA VA web page at http://www.ccavirginia.org/cca_va_html/haul.html

CONCERNS

Use of this gear damages underwater grass beds through prop scarring. A prop scar is a trench 3 feet wide, frequently 600 feet long, dug in the grass beds. These grass beds are important nursery grounds for many species of finfish as well the beleaguered blue crabs. Underwater grass beds are considered to be a major indicator of the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

The gear is usually worked in open water using two vessels. The illegal use of the gear to pair-trawl is considered by many to be one of the worst fisheries violations committed in Virginia waters.

The gear is often times operated in the middle of the night when there are rarely any Marine Police Officers on the water. Even when they are present enforcement at night presents its own set of problems.

Oversized nets are often used in the fishery. The legal maximum size is 3000 feet or over a half-mile long. Even when legally set the gear will harvest all of the fish in an area of more than 16 acres, which is about the same as 16 football fields.

Citations have been written for using two legal sized nets tied together creating a net more than a mile long. The worst offenses involve pair trawling with such a net.

Excessive bykill -- some of which is sold as baitfish while the rest is left for the gulls or simply to rot.

CCA VA GENERAL POSITION:

Haul seine operations need to be moved off of the sensitive grass beds. At minimum we feel that there should be broad area closures on those grass beds, which have been documented as damaged 10 out of the past 13 years. The closures should include the damaged areas as well as the adjacent underwater grass beds. This amounts to 8 to 11 areas each covering several square miles.

The proposed regulations are not adequate to effectively enforce against the act of pair trawling. It is important that the regulations state that the act of setting out a net can only be done with one vessel until the pocket is set. We feel that this is the only proposed option that can effectively be enforced.

Like many other commercial fisheries in Virginia waters, the gear should only be worked during daytime hours. This will go a long way towards making the regulations enforceable.

We feel that the regulations should include mandatory permanent loss of haul seine gear licenses and a two year loss of commercial fishing licenses for everyone on both vessels upon the conviction of a pair trawl violation.

We are concerned that the gear, if used in smaller bays and rivers, can easily fish these areas out. Thus we feel that nets with a length larger than one-forth of the width of the river or bay should not be used in that body of water.

A limited entry plan should be developed for the open water version of the gear with a no transfer clause so that the gear can be phased out of Virginia waters. Operation of beach seine version of the gear should be prohibited in all sea grass beds.

SAMPLE LETTER Please feel free to use it as a starting point. Since it is your letter you should edit it to include who you are and your personal concerns about this issue. The commission responds better to letters that contain personalized information rather than simple form letters.

Jack Travelstead
Virginia Marine Resources Commission
2600 Washington Avenue
Newport news, Va 23607.

Subject: New regulations for the haul seine fishery.

Mr. Travelstead,

<Describe who you are here.>

I am writing to voice my concerns regarding this fishery. I feel that it is important to move this gear type off of the underwater grass beds, which have been damaged ten of the past thirteen years. I feel that it is important to strengthen the regulations so that the act of pair trawling in Virginia waters can be eliminated completely. To do this will require that only one vessel be used until the pocket is set and that the regulations should be written such that the gear can only be used during daylight hours. If individuals are convicted of pair trawling they should be eliminated from the fishery permanently. Additionally, I support a limited entry program with no license transfers so that this destructive gear can be phased out of Virginia waters. Finally, I feel that it is important that this gear be used in water that matches its size. As such, I support a regulation that would limit the net size to no more than one quarter the width of the waterway where the gear is being used.

Sincerely,


Your name
Your address

*************

The proceeding was provided as a public service by the Coastal Conservation Association of Virginia (CCA-VA). Feel free it to forward it to your associates. If you have any comments concerning this issue, or would like to have your name added/removed from the distribution list send an email to [email protected]. The CCA-VA is a 501 C-3 charitable organization whose goal is CPR for fish; Conserve, Protect and Restore marine resources for the benefit of all Virginians.

CCA/VA Fisheries Management Committee
 

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My letter is stamped and ready for the Box. By the way when are the CCA meetings I have not recived a notice this year.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for sending something in. I hope that others that have viewed this thread are considering doing the same.

Just a note about what works best in these kinds of deals. In my book a hand written letter (faxed or mailed) is worth three form letters and a personalized typed email or fax is worth two. However, what ever you send is MUCH MUCH better than sending nothing. I and others who are working on this and other issues appreaceate (sp) anything that you can do to help.

Oh and showing up at a commission meeting; standing up; and speaking your mind is worth between 10 and 25 form letters.

Digger,

The Pensulia chapter has pretty much been dormant since last spring. Rumor has it that the situation will change in the near term future. Hopefully, they are correct.

Tom
 
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