The Washington Times - February 1, 2009, 05:59PM

On the subject of commercial vs. recreational fishing, it is painfully obvious that Virginia state legislators don’t get it.

Over the years, a number of surveys conducted by government bean counters have shown that the state’s tax and licensing coffers and the combined incomes of charter fishing captains, hotels, gas stations and restaurants visited by sport anglers, not to mention the ringing cash registers in Virginia tackle shops and marinas, dwarves the money generated by the commercial netting of fish.


So what does the state’s Senate do? It votes to hand Virginia’s valuable marine fisheries  to people who would net the last fish on Earth if a dollar could be made from it.

In the recently passed SB1087 — a bill that expands the number of associate Virginia Marine Resources Commissioners from eight to 10, and dedicates three of those seats to commercial fishermen. One seat would remain to represent recreational fishing.

As the Virginia division of the Coastal Conservation Association put it: “If the bill passes the House of Delegates, commercial fishing interests will have a voting block that will dominate decisions of the VMRC on all marine resources. The speed with which this bill is moving through the General Assembly suggests that legislators are oblivious to the fact that they would be handing over virtual control of all of Virginia’s marine resources to commercial fishing interests.”

The CCA/VA said the House will take up this bill next week, so there’s little time left to contact legislators and perhaps bring about a reversal of this dangerous trend.

Gov. Tim Kaine has not taken a position on this bill, but the CCA and the Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association says a phone call to voice your objection wouldn’t hurt. The number is 804/786-2211.
The Virginia Marine Resources Commission is charged with the responsibility of managing the state’s public marine resources for the benefit of all Virginians. Over 60 percent of the agenda of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission relates to habitat issues.

The bill in question, SB1087, would undo a current management balance that has taken years to achieve.
The CCA/VA says the commercial watermen are pushing for more representation by complaining that their arguments on the decline of the crab harvest, for example, were not properly heard by the VMRC when in fact the commission held numerous Crab Management Advisory Committee meetings where most of the members are commercial crabbers.

“There were three more Commission meetings during which everybody who wanted to speak on the subject of crabs was given an opportunity,” said the CCA/VA. “Scientific studies showed an alarming decline in the crab population, and the Governor of Virginia mandated VMRC to come up with regulations that reduced the female crab harvest by 34 percent.”

In the general Washington area, the following legislators can be contacted:

* Del. Edward T. Scott, Culpeper, 804/698-1030, [email protected]

Delegate Kenneth R. Plum, Reston, 804/698-1036, [email protected]

Delegate Albert C. Eisenberg, Arlington, 804/698-1047, [email protected]

* Delegate Stephen C. Shannon, Vienna, 804/698-1035, [email protected]

* Delegate David L. Bulova, Fairfax Station, 804/698-1037, [email protected]

* Delegate Margaret G. Vanderhye, McLean, 804/698-1034, [email protected]

* Denotes members of the Chesapeake subcommittee who are likely to first hear the bill.