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Bill to prohibit interference with commercial fishing vessels clears House subcommittee, 8-0

RICHMOND—The Virginia House of Delegates committee for courts of justice criminal subcommittee on Friday, February 2, favorably reported House Bill 928, legislation to protect commercial watermen, by a unanimous bipartisan vote of 8-0.

In response to a rising number of threats and at-sea harassment targeting commercial fishermen operating legally in Virginia waters, two bills were introduced in the 2024 Virginia legislative session, according to a press release by John Cooke of Stove Boat Communications. 

The bill introduced by District 67 Del. Hillary Pugh Kent would increase the penalties for intentionally interfering with commercial fishing operations. Del. Kent’s bill was considered, amended and passed by the subcommittee. The bill increases penalties to a Class 1 misdemeanor which is confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both. Additionally, anyone convicted will forfeit hunting and fishing licenses for a year on the first offense, and three years on a second offense.

Dangerous incidents are growing in number and aggression and physical injury, and the lives of commercial fishermen are being increasingly threatened, reported Cooke. These hazardous confrontations have been conducted on jet skis and with recreational boats, endangering all involved. Current law provides for minor penalties and….

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