RICHMOND—Additional bills regarding the Chesapeake Bay and related fisheries have been introduced in the Virginia General Assembly, including a bill that would make it easier for a family member or employee of a waterman to enter the fishery.
House Bill 1572, introduced by Del. Gordon C. Helsel Jr. of Poquoson, would direct the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) to grant a preference for an exception to the two-year delay in the effective date of registration as a commercial fisherman, according to Virginia’s Legislative Information System, lis.virginia.gov.
The bill would require the preference to benefit a license applicant who is a member of the immediate family or a documented employee of commercial fisherman who is retiring.
House Bill 1572 has been been referred to the committee on agriculture, Chesapeake and natural resources, where it was assigned to the Chesapeake subcommittee.
In the House
Among other bills referred to the committee on agriculture, Chesapeake and natural resources, and assigned to the Chesapeake subcommittee:
• House Bill 1496, introduced by Del. Helsel, would require the VMRC to post notice of an application to lease oyster planting grounds for 30 days on its website and to notify by mail the county or city in which the grounds are located, any current holders of adjoining leases and riparian owners within 200 feet of the selected grounds.
The bill also would reduce from four weeks to two weeks the period during which the VMRC is required to publish weekly notice of the application in a newspaper and requires all forms of notice to invite written comments. The bill also would require the applicant to bear the cost of the notice.
• House Bill 1573, introduced by Del. Helsel, would provide that when VMRC revokes fishing privileges for a violation of the tidal fisheries law, it shall only revoke the particular type of license that is applicable to the fishery in which the violation occurred. Under current law, the VMRC is authorized to revoke all of the fishing privileges a person has been granted. The bill also would reduce the maximum duration of the license revocation from five years to two years and require the VMRC to accept credit card payment of any civil penalty it assesses for fishing under a revoked license.
• House Bill 1574, introduced by Del. Helsel, would remove the authority of a member of the Virginia Marine Police to require a person charged with violating an oyster culling regulation to scatter the entire cargo of oysters on the public rocks.
• House Bill 1575, introduced by Del. Helsel, would provide that the prohibition against carrying an oyster dredge except when traveling to or from the licensed oyster ground or maintenance docks would not bar the carrying of a dredge through an oyster sanctuary area when the boat is traveling to or from either place.
• House Bill 1576, introduced by Del. Barry D. Knight of Virginia Beach, would prohibit fishing for menhaden with purse nets in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries within one-half mile of mean low water and within three miles of the shoreline of Virginia Beach extending to the North Carolina border.
• House Bill 1577, introduced by Del. Knight, would require the VMRC to adopt regulations to implement the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden and authorize the VMRC to adopt regulations for managing the Commonwealth’s menhaden fishery. The bill also would require that any moratorium on the fishery be subject to legislative review. The bill would repeal several code sections relating to quotas, allocation of allowable landings and administrative procedures that would be included in a regulatory framework for managing the fishery.
• House Bill 1680, introduced by Del. Robert S. Bloxom of Mappsville, would establish four advisory committees to make recommendations to the VMRC on issues relating to the management of crab, finfish, shellfish and habitat. The bill also would reorganize two existing advisory boards that deal with commercial fishing and recreational fishing, respectively, and one existing advisory committee that deals with the Virginia Saltwater Sport Fishing Tournament.
Each of the seven committees and boards would be composed of nine members appointed by the commissioner of marine resources, of whom one is an associate commissioner and eight are citizen members drawn from a list of nominees submitted by interested organizations. The bill also would add two members to the Fishery Resource Grant Advisory Board, one of whom is an associate commissioner. The provisions of the bill establishing the four new committees would expire on July 1, 2020.
• House Bill 2297, introduced by Del. Jason S. Miyares of Virginia Beach would require VMRC to post notice of an application to lease oyster planting grounds for 30 days on its website and to notify by mail the county or city in which the grounds are located, any current holders of adjoining leases and riparian owners within 200 feet of the selected grounds. Current law requires posting of notice at the local courthouse for 60 days.
The bill also would reduce from four to two weeks the period during which the VMRC is required to publish weekly notice of the application in a newspaper and would require all forms of notice to invite written comments. The bill also would provide that the applicant shall bear the cost of notice.
• House Bill 2298, introduced by Del. Miyares, would reduce from 205 feet to 105 feet the minimum low-water shore front that makes the land owner eligible to apply for riparian planting grounds assignment by the commissioner of marine resources.
In the Senate
Among bills referred to the Senate committee on agriculture, conservation and natural resources:
• Senate Bill 820, introduced by Sen. John A. Cosgrove Jr. of Chesapeake, calling on the VMRC to adopt regulations for managing the Commonwealth’s menhaden fishery is similar to House Bill 1576.
• Senate Bill 866, introduced by Sen. Richard H. Stuart of Montross, would require the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) to create a database listing operators who have completed a boating safety course.
• Senate Bill 906, introduced by Sen. Scott A. Surovell of Mount Vernon, would change the Commonwealth’s prohibition on snakehead fish. The legislation would prohibit the introduction of snakehead fish from any location into state waters. Current law only prohibits the introduction of snakehead fish from outside the Commonwealth. Senate Bill 906 on January 12 was reported from the committee on agriculture, conservation and natural resources, on a 12-1 vote. On January 16, the Senate voted 39-0 to dispense with the first reading.
• Senate Bill 909, introduced by Sen. Stuart, would increase the total allowable menhaden landings from 158,700.12 metric tons to 168,937.75 metric tons. On January 12 the bill was reported from the committee on agriculture, conservation and natural resources, 13-0. On January 16, the Senate voted 39-0 to dispense with the first reading.
• Senate Bill 1144, introduced by Sen. Bill R. DeSteph Jr. of Virginia Beach, regarding the VMRC, oyster planting grounds and notice of application fees, is similar to House Bill 1496.
• Senate Bill 1145, introduced by Sen. DeSteph, regarding riparian planting grounds leasing and eligibility, is similar to House Bill 2298.
• Senate Bill 1355, introduced by Sen. DeSteph, would provide that the existing ability of a landowner to open a channel although he is not a lessee or riparian holder of suitable bottoms to include the actions of marking a channel, dredging a navigable channel for access to his property and participating with a locality to dredge a channel outside his riparian area.
The bill would require VMRC to consider a variety of factors when determining whether to grant or deny a lease for the use of state-owned bottomlands. Current law requires such consideration only for the granting or denial of a permit for such use. The bill also would include the use of state waters for navigation among the factors to be considered.
The bill also would expand the area of state-owned submerged beds that are potentially off limits for oyster planting by including navigation projects that are authorized by the Commonwealth or by a locality among the areas where no lease shall be granted. Current law exempts navigation projects from leasing only when they are authorized by Congress. The bill contains technical amendments.
• Senate Bill 1402, introduced by Sen. DeSteph, would direct VMRC to determine whether, for certain oyster-planting grounds, an application for assignment, transfer or renewal of a lease also would require the submission of a ground use plan that VMRC deems acceptable. The bill would remove a provision allowing renewal of a lease in spite of the absence of production where good cause is shown.