Update. On April 8 I wrote an article for this blog titled, “Virginia Trophy Rockfish Season under Threat of Cancellation.” Yesterday the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) voted unanimously to cancel Virginia’s trophy rockfish season. VMRC believes that the species has been overfished for the last six years and the stock of migratory striped bass is now below sustainable levels. In Virginia the recreational catch of striped bass declined from 368,000 fish in 2010 to less than 52,000 last year.
Mass migration. Trophy-sized striped bass (or rockfish) are the large fish that migrate up the Atlantic coast in the spring, stopping in various rivers and estuaries to spawn. The location of these migrating rockfish on April 19 can be seen here. While specific seasons and minimum “keeper” sizes vary by state, the overall philosophy is to ban the taking of trophy rockfish until they have entered the rivers and estuaries and spawned. Anglers may catch and keep the fish as they are returning to the ocean post-spawn.
Will other states follow? The VMRC has encouraged other states to follow Virginia’s cancellation decision. North Carolina manages its striped bass fisheries differently in different areas of the state. The Tarheel state has already implemented a two-year moratorium on coastal striped bass fishing and has added significant restrictions in other areas as well. Connecticut and Massachusetts seem ready to implement restrictions. Maryland’s trophy rockfish season has not been canceled. Trophy fishing in Maryland started last Saturday, April 20.
Commercial question. As far as I can tell only recreational fishing restrictions have been implemented in Virginia. Commercial fishing during trophy season in the Chesapeake area of Virginia is regulated via a maximum size limit of 28 inches (between January 16 and June 15). This requires commercial fishermen to release the largest fish which produce the majority of eggs. However, commercial fishing in the coastal areas has only a minimum size limit of 28 inches. This implies that the same large fish that are being banned from recreational fishing are allowed for commercial fishing in coastal areas.
Money. No discussion of anything in Virginia politics would be complete without a note on the money special interests pay to our political class. Since 1996 commercial seafood interests in Virginia have donated $1,411,271 to Virginia politicians. The only reference to “recreational fishing” on VPAP was a single $500 donation made in 2003.
— Don RippertThere are currently no comments highlighted.