Va. places moratorium on crabbers' licenses

Watermen, seeing decline in annual harvest, requested regulations

May 26, 1999|By Joel McCord | Joel McCord,SUN STAFF

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission imposed a one-year moratorium yesterday on new commercial crabbing licenses and on license transfers as part of a number of measures aimed at reducing the pressure on the Chesapeake Bay fishery.

The moratorium comes at the request of Virginia watermen, who have said they are worried the blue crab is being overfished and is in need of protection. It marks a reversal for Virginia officials, who historically have not been as aggressive as Maryland in regulating watermen. The commission's vote on the issue was 7-0.

The commission, meeting in Newport News, Va., also voted to require watermen to obtain markers for their crab pots in the water.

By requiring markers, Virginia authorities can keep track of how many pots a waterman is fishing and cut down on the number of illegal pots, Kale said.

Many of the regulations are similar to those already in place in Maryland.

The harvest in Maryland last year was the lowest on record, with 26 million pounds caught, compared with an annual average of about 41 million pounds since the 1970s, according to state figures.

Virginia watermen caught their average of 35 million pounds last year, but their winter harvest, in which they dredge the mud near the mouth of the bay where crabs hibernate, was disappointing. Experts are predicting another bad year this year.

Last month, Virginia's fishery manager proposed a network of crab sanctuaries stretching most of the length of the bay, where catching crabs would be off limits to watermen. But the commission is not expected to take up the plan until the fall.

Pub Date: 5/26/99

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