- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 2, 2002

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) Virginia regulators have enacted commercial-catch limits on blue crab and striped bass, effectively ending the commercial season for the popular game fish.
The striper ban does not extend to sports fishing.
The Virginia Marine Resources Commission put off-limits to crabbers certain waters in the Chesapeake Bay and restricted the catch of stripers, or rock bass, in Atlantic waters off Virginia. That limit has already been met this year.
The emergency action on Tuesday comes after warnings from scientific and fisheries-management groups about diminishing stocks of the two prized catches.
The Virginia Institute of Marine Science has estimated an 84 percent decline this decade in the number and size of adult female crabs in the lower bay.
In addition, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has warned Virginia to curb the practice of allowing fishermen to catch big stripers offshore before they can reach the Chesapeake Bay to breed.
The new Virginia rules expand a huge sanctuary in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay by 286 square miles. The rules have also put waters at least 30 feet deep off-limits to commercial fishermen since yesterday to Sept. 15 the peak crabbing season.
Virginia watermen can take 98,000 pounds of stripers from the ocean per year. So far in 2002, they have captured about 600,000 pounds, said Jack Travelstead, state director of saltwater fisheries.
The regulation closes the coast and bans the taking or possessing of striped bass from the ocean by commercial fishermen until at least the next season, which begins Feb. 1.
The commission took the step after federal regulators last week determined that Virginia watermen were catching too many large, old stripers migrating toward New England and the North Atlantic.
In adopting a larger crab sanctuary, expanding the existing one from 661 square miles to 947 square miles, Virginia believes it has complied with a conservation pact with Maryland and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission. The neighbors pledged to cut Bay harvests by 15 percent by the end of 2003.


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