Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Marine Resources Commission
Marine Resources Commission
[4 VAC 20 ‑ ]
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8/21/23  6:41 pm
Commenter: Chris Moore, Chesapeake Bay Foundation

CBF Comments in Support of the Petition

The Chesapeake Bay is North America’s largest estuary.  Despite its size, it is overall very shallow with an average depth of approximately 21 feet.  In addition, the Bay remains an important nursery for menhaden along with a host of other species that are dependent on menhaden as one of their primary food sources while in the estuary.

Many questions remain about the impacts of the menhaden reduction fishery in the Chesapeake Bay region.  Although a cap on reduction fishery landings was first placed on the fishery in the mid-2000’s, efforts to develop a Chesapeake Bay specific population estimate and associated quota have proved elusive.  Overall, the impacts of such gear and its landings on the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem remained unresolved. 

The regulatory petition submitted by Mr. Bill Dunn simply asks the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) to explore the need for regulations on the depth of purse seine nets deployed in Chesapeake Bay.  This action is timely given the consideration of a broader set of regulations primarily focused on reducing net spills and by-catch in December of 2022.

A number of facts point to the need to move this regulatory petition forward.  First, other states including Alaska and Rhode Island with purse seine fisheries have developed similar regulations.  The Rhode Island purse seine regulations are perhaps the most similar example given the fishery also takes place in an estuary and targets menhaden.  In addition, previously conducted by-catch studies have raised concerns given the catch of bottom-dwelling species such as conch, flounder, horseshoe crabs, and clams included in the catch from the menhaden reduction fishery.  Finally, the large catch of red drum last summer highlights concern about catch of commercially and recreationally important species such as red drum.

VMRC is well positioned to take up such a petition.  With the passage House Bill 1448 during the 2020 legislative session, VMRC has full authority to manage this fishery.  In addition, the legislation formed a Menhaden Management Advisory Committee that is likely the first stop for such a regulatory effort. 

Given these facts, CBF supports the petition’s intent to have VMRC  begin a regulatory process to determine the appropriate depth of purse seines in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and areas where this gear is not appropriate due to depth and/or other important resources.

CommentID: 219607