Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Joint Meeting of the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass and Bluefish Management Boards

I attended the ASMFC meeting Wed, July 6, 2016 which was all about potential additional cuts for 2016 for Black Sea Bass.  According to final MRIP numbers, our northern states continue to catch the majority of our quota while the southern states and Virginia catch very little of the quota for BSB.  This board considered additional cuts for the 2016 season but no motion was made for cuts so ASMFC is not moving forward with cuts for 2016 at this time.  NOAA / NMFS could still implement cuts if they deem it necessary to prevent overfishing for 2016 .  Here is the link to the meeting materials.

I provided the VSSA position during this meeting which is no further cuts are justified and requested that Virginia be given back our winter access to BSB Jan-April given Virginia has not come even close to exceeding any projected numbers for BSB.  You can listen to the audio at the YouTube video below and the VSSA position is stated at 1:51 30 seconds. 


Menhaden Changes

Comments are due by 5:00PM, July 11, 2016 on Draft Addendum I to Amendment 2 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Atlantic Menhaden proposes modifying the FMP’s bycatch allowance provision.  

The current regulations pertaining to fixed multispecies stationary gear (i.e. pound net) fishing allows one licensed individual to harvest 6000 lbs. of menhaden bycatch per vessel per day. The public is asked to comment on changing this regulation to allow 2 licensed individuals fishing from a single boat the ability to harvest 12,000 lbs. per day when fishing multispecies stationary gear. This change is requested primarily for the Chesapeake Bay pound net fishery.  It will allow licensed individuals to pool their resources for fuel and crew and work from a single boat, vs. multiple boats.  This change will not increase the total landings of menhaden.   This method of fishing represents less than 2% of the total coast wide landings for menhaden.

VSSA can support this change since the total landings of menhaden will not be increased.  VSSA continues to advocate that there should be no increase in the total allowable catch (TAC) for menhaden.

Unless, we hear to the contrary from our members, VSSA will support the change in Addendum 1 to Amendment 2.

The complete document can be found at

SAFMC Cobia Amendment

Dear Cobia Anglers,

While the 2016 cobia regulations are settled, SAFMC is hard at work to severely limit our cobia season for 2017 and beyond. 

Please see the decision framework posted here:

Full framework amendment 4 posted here.

VSSA is requesting all anglers submit their comments online at the SAFMC web form.  Comments need to be submitted not later June 16 to be included in the record.

Suggested wording you can copy and paste or feel free to write your own comments


I request the following letter be included as a public comment for the June Council meeting regarding the proposed cobia amendment.

I support a federal limit of 1 cobia per person (reduction from 2 per person). I do not support boat limits until a new stock assessment is completed to justify that such drastic measures are needed. The council and committee have failed to demonstrate that cobia are overfished based on a single year of data.  

I recommend redoing the automatic triggers to Accountability Measures (AM) that call for closures based on 1 years’ worth of data. Automatic triggers to AMs is a poor way to manage stocks when based on a single year of data. And certainly a full closure is unwarranted when other management options are clearly available such reduced limits, sizes, and partial seasonal closures.  

I strongly urge SAFMC to return the Atlantic coast to a single zone. The zone split providing the Florida Atlantic coast their own zone and higher ACL is grossly unfair and represents unprofessional favoritism to a single state. The science used to justify this action is not sound nor accepted by any respectable fisherman.  

I do not support closed seasons. SAFMC and the committee have failed to justify the need for closed season.


Here is a copy of the VSSA letter submitted. 

VSSA Cobia Letter to SAFMC 6 Jun 16

Virginia Cobia Regulations Set for 2016

Our cobia regulations for 2016 have been established for the 2016 fishing year effective June 1, 2016.  VSSA has been working on cobia since October and the fight is far from over.  VSSA has attended many meetings, conducted polls, reached out to members, listened to angler concerns, but at the end of the day it came down to a vote by our VMRC Associate Commissioners.  Dr. Ken Neill, one of the Associate Commissioners, was very vocal about keeping our season open and although nobody is completely happy with the results, it is better than a closure.  Thanks Dr. Neill for your efforts to influence the other board members.   

Here are our new regulations effective June 1st.  (note:  use the official VMRC site for fishing regulations before heading out).

  • 1 cobia per angler 40 inches or greater total length.
  • Maximum of 2 cobia per vessel for all vessels, private, charter, and inspected vessels (head boats).
  • Only 1 of the 2 fish may be over 50 inches.  (note you can have 2 fish between 40 and 50 inches)
  • Pier and surf fisherman 1 fish per person 40 inches or better.
  • Gaffing of cobia is prohibited. 
  • Federal waters close June 20 (3 – 200 miles out from shore).  The Chesapeake Bay is all State waters, not Federal waters. 
  • Catch and release remains open and unlimited.  Release citation may still be registered all year.
  • Season closes August 30. 
  • Landing permits will be required for everyone that comes with mandatory reporting.  If you fail to report or submit did not fish reports you risk not getting a permit the following year.  If you don’t have a cobia permit and land a cobia while targeting other species (like flounder) you must obtain one online (for free) before bringing that cobia home.

VSSA will continue to be directly involved in the cobia issue as next up is the amendment for the cobia FMP that will affect our 2017 season.  We must pay close attention to this so Virginia is represented.

Here is the article from the Pilot Online.


The Virginia Marine Resources Commission on Tuesday voted 5-4 to keep the state’s cobia season open until Aug. 30, but not without several drastic changes in regulation.

After an outcry from anglers over a South Atlantic Marine Fishery Council order to close the fishery from Georgia to New York on June 20, state agencies had sought a compromise that would keep fishing open . Federal fisheries managers had requested that states adopt the closure after catches of the popular species spiked well over the Allowable Catch Limit last year.

North Carolina last week opted to keep its season open until Sept. 30, but with several regulations that angered recreational fishermen – including only being able to keep fish Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. Charter and pier anglers can keep fish seven days a week.

Virginia’s new regulations, which will go into effect June 1, were met with mixed emotions.

In Virginia waters inside of 3 miles from the coast, anglers will have a one-fish-per-person limit, up to a two-fish maximum per boat. Fish must be at least 40 inches long and only one can top 50 inches. Gaffing no longer will be permitted in an effort to lower fish mortality for catch-and-release action. Some form of mandatory reporting will be put in place.

“This is a conservation measure to keep our economy going and give our anglers time and give the feds time to fix their mess,” said Commissioner Ken Neill, Virginia’s representative to the International Game Fish Association. “This is much more restrictive than we’ve ever fished.”

The catching of cobia will not be permitted in federal waters 3 miles and out off either state after June 20.

A closure on June 20 in state waters would have affected the Virginia economy, anglers and several commissioners argued.

“I would have been more satisfied with a three-fish limit,” said Capt. Jorj Head, a teacher who spends the season taking charters out for cobia. “I can live with it for this season, but I wouldn’t use the word happy. It is better than a closure.”

Jonathan French from Northern Virginia put in an extensive research effort to fight the closure in both states, finding information that the SAMFC closure had violated at least two standards in the Magnuson Stevens Act designed to protect fisheries and user groups.

“I have a problem that Virginia chose a shorter season and less limits than North Carolina,” he said. “And I was disgusted that some of the members (of the VRMC) didn’t do any research on this before the meeting even though I provided them with everything. It’s unjust when you acknowledge that federal laws were violated when determining the June 20 closure.

“When you look at the charters that have more than two customers, it’s going to have an impact.”

John Bull, head of the VMRC, said he was nervous about defying the SAMFC call for closure on June 20, but said he believes the commission took a good path.

“I think the commission took prudent and deliberate action after four hours of discussion and information gathering,” Bull said. “This was a very difficult decision for an important fishery. It’s hard to assess what the long-term ramifications will be.

“No one has a crystal ball for stuff like this.”

Lee Tolliver, 757-222-5844, Follow @LeeTolliver on Twitter.


Blueline Tile Meeting June 9

VSSA complained loudly about the new blueline tile regulations after working with MAFMC for a year to try to keep them fair for everyone.  Their recommendations last month are far from fair.

So MAFMC is giving us one last shot at hearing us.  If you fish for blueline tile, recommend you dial in.

The Council will hold a listening session on Thursday, June 9, 2016 at 7 p.m. regarding the 2017 recreational specifications for blueline tilefish off the Mid-Atlantic (from Virginia north). The meeting will be held via webinar with a telephone-only audio connection option:   

In April 2016, the Council recommended 2017 recreational measures for blueline tilefish off the Mid-Atlantic with an open season from May 1 to October 31 and bag limits of 7 fish per person for inspected for-hire vessels, 5 fish per person for uninspected for-hire vessels, and 3 fish per person for private vessels.  Based on concerns of constituents regarding this recommendation, the Council has scheduled time at its June 13-16, 2016 meeting to potentially reconsider these measures.  To provide additional opportunity for the public to comment on this issue, the Council will hold a webinar-based listening session.  During the listening session Council staff will summarize the rationale for the original recommendation, answer questions, and take comments on possible alternatives, which will be provided to the Council. 

Telephone connection information is provided when individuals enter the webinar, or individuals can call 800-832-0736 and enter *7833942# to access the audio portion of the webinar.  Anyone not familiar with connecting to Council webinars and wishing to get connection assistance should contact Jason Didden at or 302-526-5254 at least a day before the webinar.

Special Accommodations

This meeting is physically accessible to people with disabilities.  Requests for sign language interpretation or other auxiliary aid should be directed to M. Jan Saunders, (302) 526-5251, at least 5 days prior to the meeting date.

North Carolina Cobia Regs Set for the Summer

The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries Commission voted Thursday to keep its state-waters cobia fishery open past a federally-ordered June 20 closing, putting the state in non-compliance with the South Atlantic Marine Fisheries Council.

But the commission made several drastic changes to size and bag limits, and severely cut the number of days that recreational anglers could keep the coveted species.

From May 23 to Sept. 30, charter boats will be able to fish every day with a four-fish limit per boat, with each fish measuring at least 37 inches. Pier and surf anglers also can fish every day, with one 37-inch minimum fish per person per day.

Recreational private boaters, however, will be able to keep fish only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. The limit will be two fish of at least 37 inches per boat.

Catch-and-release action is allowed, but closing the season on Sept. 30 will effectively end the fall portion of the fishery.

In federal waters past the state line of three miles, the closure will be from June 20 through the end of the year.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission will make its decision about whether to go non-compliant Tuesday at its Newport News office.

Lee Tolliver, 757-222-5844,

3rd Annual State of the Chesapeake Bay Discussion with Congressman Scott Rigell

Attention Residents of Virginia’s Second Congressional District: You are invited to attend the 3rd Annual State of the Chesapeake Bay Discussion Addressing important Bay restoration issues Hosted by Congressman Scott Rigell Tuesday, May 31 6 pm – 8 pm Cavalier Golf and Yacht Club 1052 Cardinal Road, Virginia Beach, VA 23451


Panelists (TBD)



 ** Oysters will be provided by Pleasure House Oysters**

Free Event

 Have questions? Contact Shannon Kendrick, District Director for Congressman Scott Rigell at Light refreshments will be provided Verify your congressional district at

Have questions about 3rd Annual State of the Chesapeake Bay Discussion with Congressman Scott Rigell? Contact Office of Congressman Scott Rigell