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Author Topic: Summary of 12/04 VMRC Commission meeting  (Read 2792 times)
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« on: December 23, 2004, 09:15:59 AM »

12/21/04 VMRC Commission Meeting summary

Three items discussed changes in the commercial trip limits and adjusting quotas on commercial fisheries. None of the trip limit changes adjusted the overall or quarterly quotas. The species were summer flounder, scup and bluefish.

Striped Bass – Request for public hearing. Commercial – changes to the overall quota based on the ASMFC allowed harvest in the bay; minor changes in the mandatory reporting requirements for the watermen and changes in the reporting program for the buyers; make it mandatory that last year’s unused tags be turned in prior to receiving this year’s tags. The last three are requested so as to better track tag usage; and the quotas for the coastal and bay fisheries.

Commissioner Bowden requested that staff consider adding a regulation that states that the commercial season not be closed when the quota is met and that any paybacks for quota overages be deducted from those individuals who caught fish weighing more than the average predicted weight. Here is the logic – the commercial fishermen are issued a given number of tags based on the average weight of all the fish caught the year before. During the year some target larger fish, and some target smaller fish. The general concept is that those that harvested the larger than average fish are the individuals who caused the quota to be over. Thus those are the individuals who should be penalized for the overage. The only problem with the proposal is that Virginia would be out of compliance if they did not shut the commercial fishery down once they realized that they were over quota.

On the recreational fishery. The only change requested at this time is that the possession law be modified so as to address individuals who do multiple trips within the same day. The proposed wording will put the 2 fish possession (harvested) to be between midnight and 11:59 PM. Afterwards there was some private discussion with the enforcement folks and they warned of some significant tightening up of what possession means and where you can be in possession of more than your daily limit. More on this later after it is discussed more with specific examples.

License Fee Increase. This was more of a scoping hearing with no intention of changing anything at this time. Staff did a presentation where they referred to a table regarding the fee increases. The maximum increases that they are allowed are $5 or the CPI since the fee was last changed, which ever is greater. The recreational licenses as well as the $150 commercial waterman’s card were implemented in 1993. The increase in the CPI from then is 27%. Many of the Commercial gear license fees were set in 1979 and the CPI increase since then is 153%. Additionally, the commission may now charge for permits that they currently issue at no charge, there is no set fee or maximum on new permits. If everything were raised the maximum the same number of licenses were purchased, the recreational fees would net an additional $700,000 and the commercial fees would net an additional $450,000. In both cases the law states that the fees increases will go to the dedicated funds controlled by the Commission as advised by the Recreational Fishing Advisory Board and the Commercial Fishing Advisory Board.

After Staff finished their discussion Commissioner Garrison asked Commissioner Pruitt some questions regarding funding for additional staff positions. The only thing that is in the Governor’s proposed budget is to fund 5 enforcement positions and that Senator Chichester was trying to get the funding for the other 5 positions. Basically, Commissioner Pruitt pointed out that the agency was short by 10 to 25 positions depending on how you describe the enforcement needs in the next few years. Commissioner Garrison wanted to use these funds to pay for these positions. Commissioner Pruitt stated that such should not be the case and that individuals should lobby the legislature to get funding for those positions. (As a general rule an FTE costs between $75,000 and $100,000 for salary, benefits and supplies. Thus 10 positions would eat up all of the proposed fee increases.)

Six individuals spoke at the public hearing. The three commercial watermen who spoke were all concerned that if there were a fee increase that the watermen have control over how the funds were spent (It seems that the Commercial Fishing Advisory Board has either been disbanded or died due to a lack of funds to spend. Previous discussions with staff indicated that the intention is that the group will be re-established when there is money to deal with.) Two of them spoke of the hardship that increased fees would cause one spoke specifically about an increase to the $150 commercial license fee and stated that increases in the other fees could be tolerated. A charter boat captain spoke in objection to the concept of permit fees for the charter boat striped bass permit asking what do we get for it? Bob Pride spoke for CCA their position letter is included below. They supported the enabling legislation, so long any fee increases are equitable (meaning that the commercial fund has enough money to pay their share of the research, etc. needs that are applicable to both fisheries, and that the money is put in the dedicated funds. I reviewed the conclusions from the License Round table from last fall spoke in support of the fee increases with the same caveats regarding the dedicated funds as well as to insure that the increases were not used to supplant general funds. My statement is also included below.

After the public comment Commissioner Pruitt appointed a committee of Bob Pride (CCA), Doug Jenkins (Twin River Waterman’s Association) Commissioner Mcleskey and Commissioner Robbins to meet and study the matter.

CCA’s letter follows.

Mr. Travelstead,

The Coastal Conservation Association of Virginia (CCA VA) respectfully submits the following comments related to the possible increase in license fees for commercial and recreational fisherman in Virginia. As I’m sure you are aware, CCA VA supported the house bill (HB 1024) that gave the VMRC authority to raise license fees during the legislative process. The two main components of this support were based on the understanding any new revenues would remain in the dedicated funds and any fee increase would be done in a fair and equitable manner between user groups. CCA VA asks the commission to keep these components in mind while determining whether out not to set any new fees.

CCA VA asks VMRC to recognize the difference in trends in license sales between the recreational and commercial sectors. While recreational license sales are expected to continue to rise, any increase in fees will keep a number of commercial license holders from buying their license in the future. Currently over 2,200 license holders report little or no landings each year. These are the ones most likely to stop purchasing their license. VMRC needs to account for this attrition when setting any new fee structures.

CCA VA would also like to see enough commercial funding for programs other than the mandatory reporting system. Currently, fees paid by the commercial licenses only cover enough to fund the mandatory reporting system. Commercial industry funding needs to viably cover the long-term program costs for mandatory reporting as well as future research and enforcement initiatives. Since the inception of the recreational license, recreational funds have paid for the vast majority of commercial and recreational license funded fisheries research in the Commonwealth funded by license revenues. Any new increases should allow these important aspects of fisheries management to be funded by both user groups in the future proportional to their impact on the resource,

Last, CCA VA believes it would be extremely beneficial for VMRC to publicly distribute a list of programs and projects it hopes fund using the new funds. CCA VA has found that recreational anglers tend to support of programs that benefit Virginia’s natural resources, provide better enforcement, and better access to Virginia’s waters. Without a specific list of projects, suspicions of license money replacing general funds will be rampant, and widespread support for a fee increase may be hard to obtain.


« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2004, 09:16:24 AM »

My statement to the Commission follows:

I was a member of the license round table. We reviewed the programs and funding needs of the agency as well as the programs that have been historically been funded by the Saltwater Recreational Fishing Development and the Marine Fishing Improvement Funds. My impression of the results of those meetings is the following.

• The agency budget exceeds the funds available were the license fees increased by a factor of five to ten, thus it should continue to be funded by the General Fund.

• The mandatory reporting program, research, habitat improvement, access, education and enforcement projects which are currently supported by the license fees are worthy projects that should continue to be funded.

• There is a legitimate need for increased revenue for both funds.

• It is important that any fee increases not be used to supplant general funds supplied to the agency.

• Any fee increases should be equitable between the user groups.

• The 24% commercial fee increase structure that was proposed in the round table report was a compromise because we did not have the time nor did all the members have the desire to review the fee structure on a license by license basis and to compare them to the programmatic needs.

I supported the legislation that enables this Commission to raise the license fees as well as to create new permit fees for specific agency services and programs. I still support these concepts, just so long as the increases go to the respective funds and are not used to provide general operating funds to the agency. That being said, I do feel that the agency should be able to tap the funds for worthy projects that last a finite period of time.

On the recreational increases, it is my opinion that the maximum allowed fee increases of $5.00 or 25% should be applied to the all of the recreational fees with the exception of the 10-day license, which should remain at $5.00 so as to continue to encourage tourism and the $29.00 crab pot license which is already excessive for a 5-pot license. By my calculations that should provide about $700,000 of increased funds for worthy projects that go through public review process of the Recreational Fishing Advisory Board.

On the commercial fee increases, it is my opinion caution should be taken. Once the fees are increased the CPI baseline will be reset and future increases will be severely limited. I feel that the Commission should thoroughly review the programmatic needs such as a crab pot-tagging program or the weight based ITQ for the striped bass fishery, determine those costs, make a decision to implement the programs, or not, then review or have a committee review the specific fee increases with the goal of funding these new programs as well as to provide an additional $300,000 to $500,000 annually which would be used to address the programs such as research, education, the increased costs of the mandatory reporting program as well as general improvements to the marine resources and commercial fisheries as allowed in state code.
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« Reply #2 on: December 24, 2004, 12:13:11 AM »

Hi, Tom...I appreciate all of the information that you have posted...but let's face it...nobody likes fee increases!  Esp, I think the commercial people...they are out there working their butts off, trying to make a decent living...yet there are so many "Bay issues" out there and I fear that any increase to  the licenses will just force people out.  There is no guarantee that anybody going out there crabbing will get a good catch.  Funds are limited for the Chesapeake Bay...I've been reading that in the papers every day.  There are groups out there that are doing their own thing and I also applaud them.  

I am not as knowledgeable as you are, of course!  But I am striving to be, as I care so much about this beautiful bay of ours....and to see what the numbers were way back when and what they are now...it's sickening.



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