Dear Secretary Ward,
Greetings from Hampton, Virginia.
I’m Mike Avery with the Virginia Saltwater Sportfishing Association (VSSA). I know you and your staff are probably swamped with the General Assembly in session but wanted to run a few items by you that have been on our minds for a while now.
1. Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Representation. There are 3 Virginia representatives that make up the voting members for Virginia. (1) VMRC Commissioner, (2) A Governor representative, and (3) a Legislator representative. We strongly believe the Governor’s and Legislator’s appointments should not be life-long appointments. Reasonable term limits such as 3 years should be implemented to keep the representatives fresh. The current appointments have been in place for a very long time, as long as many can remember. Important decisions are made at every ASMFC meeting and feel our representatives should be rotated on a regular basis. We are not saying anyone is doing anything wrong or improper but life-long appointments are not the way our government should operate. I would ask your office look into this issue and see what can be done to implement term limits for our representatives.
2. Access to the VMRC Associate Commissioners. As you know VMRC operates with monthly board meetings with Associate Commissioners appointed by the Governor for 3 year terms. The citizens in your state do not have direct access to these Associate Commissions to raise concerns over fishery issues. Our only access is to send letters and emails into the VMRC office and our letters/emails are printed out into a binder before each monthly Commission meeting. Our letters are only made available to the Associate Commissioners a day or 2 before the meeting. For issues that have significant public input, we suspect most of our letters are not even read as it’s just too much material for anyone to read just prior to the meeting. And yes know we can show up at the monthly meeting and take the microphone to speak directly to the board but the monthly meetings are conducted in such a manner that simply does not support the vast majority of citizens being able to participate. The meetings are held during the day with no timeslots on each agenda item. We literally have to take an entire day off work and sit for hours in a small room waiting for a particular issue to be heard not knowing when it will be heard. We are asking that email accounts be created for each Associate Commissioner so we can send our input directly. The Associate Commissioner could read our input at his/her convenience and at least our input would have a reasonable chance of being heard. One does not have to disclose their personal contact information as it’s so easy to just create a separate email account for this purpose. We only have access to one Associate Commissioner, Dr. Ken Neill, the others we do not know how to contact directly. I made this request directly to the Commission last year by taking the microphone but no action or motion was made. I am asking your office to look into this issue of providing access to our VMRC Associate Commissioners so we can have reasonable assurance our input is at least being heard and not ignored. Every other state provides contact information for their Commission, there is no reason why Virginia should not do the same.
We do have other issues as well. We are all monitoring the Saltwater License fund issue very closely and appreciate your efforts to help.
We would like to have an office call with your office to discuss these and other issue after things settle out a bit from the General Assembly sessions.
Thanks for your time.
r/ Mike Avery, President