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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
SUPPORT NEW ARTIFICIAL REEF

CCA VA urges recreational anglers to contact VMRC and state your support of an artificial fishing reef in the area of Bluefish Rock. This is one of the reef projects that has been on the drawing boards for more than 10 years. There is a risk that the project could be canceled or reduced substantially in size. Your input will let the Commission know how the public feels about these projects. There will be a public hearing for regarding this reef at the March 27th Commission meeting so it's imperative that you send in your comments ASAP. Your comments can be mailed, emailed, or faxed using the information below.

[email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>
Fax - (757) 247-8101

Virginia Marine Resources Commission
2600 Washington Avenue, 3rd Floor
Newport News, VA 23607
Attn. Jack Travelstead

BACKGROUND

VRMC staff has been working on getting permits for several new artificial reefs. Currently one of those reefs is under consideration by the Commission. The preliminary site is 3 miles due east of the entrance to the Salt Ponds near Bluefish Rock. This location has been in the Artificial Reef Program's long term plans for about ten years. The specific coordinates for the corners of the proposed reef are:

NW 37-04.000 N; 76-13.100 W NE 37-04.000 N; 76 12.200 W
SW 37-03.300 N; 76-13.100 W SE 37-03.300 N; 76-12.200 W

VMRC Staff held a meeting regarding this reef on March 14th. The meeting was open to the public and several individuals from both the recreational and commercial sector were invited to attend. Seven recreational anglers, two commercial fishermen, a lawyer representing Omega Protein, and three VMRC Staff members attended the meeting.

The concerns raised by the Commercial representatives were as follows:

The first objection had to do with the general concept of allocating an area of the bay to one user group. The second concern had to do with the specific location of the proposed reef, as it was a prime area for crab dredging and other commercial activities. The third objection came from the Omega Protein representative who stated that Omega did not support in new reef that would interfere with their operations. The final commercial request, which was also put on the table by the Omega Protein representative, was that the size of the reef site be reduced substantially. This option was supported by one of the other commercial representatives (Kelly Place) but not the other (C.D. Hancock). Furthermore there was a general objection that the information was not adequately provided to the commercial industry.

One of the recreational representatives pointed out that the Commission regularly takes actions that limit the use of public bottomlands by different user groups. Some examples are: Private piers, marinas, pound nets, security restrictions for shipyards and power plants, aquaculture permits and, artificial fishing reefs. In most of these instances these restrictions affect the public's right to use state waters for recreation.

With respect to the specific location, the consensus of the recreational representatives was that the specific location of the reef could be modified but they were insistent that it be in this general area and that it not be moved substantially eastward of the proposed location. Furthermore, they agreed that moving it due north had the potential to interfere with the cobia fishery which takes place in that area and that they were concerned with such a move. There was also a concern that if the reef were moved substantially eastward that there would be an added hazard due to tug/barge traffic in the formally marked North-South channel just east of the proposed location.

The recreational representatives were adamant that the size of the reef should not be decreased. There is a large population base that would be making use of this reef. In addition to boaters leaving from the Salt Ponds, and Back River it is expected that this reef will attract boaters from Hampton Creek and other ports within Hampton Roads. Additionally, unlike the Poquoson River reef, which was approved by the Commission last year at half of the proposed size, this reef is not hemmed in all directions by leased bottom, shipping channels and actively used public clam beds.

With respect to the notice, VMRC staff pointed out that the matter was on the Commission's January agenda; that the public notice was on the web for the past three weeks; and that the general artificial reef siting plan was done approximately 15 years ago and was available to anyone who had the willingness to ask staff for the information.

At the end of the meeting, the Omega Protein representative asked VMRC Staff if it would be possible to delay the public hearing and subsequent vote. This request was reiterated by the other commercial representatives who voiced the desire to get more involvement by commercial watermen who might have objections to the proposal. To this request Deputy Commissioner Travelstead stated that they were going hold the public hearing as scheduled because it had been advertised. He went on to say that staff would be requesting that the Commission vote be deferred until the May 22nd meeting. He agreed that Mike Meier should investigate the concept of moving the site south or east. He directed Mike to present the results of his investigation to another meeting between the recreational and commercial representatives during the first week in May to see if a consensus could be reached on a new location and reef configuration. C.D. Hancock, the commercial representative from Poquoson, volunteered the services of local watermen who would be willing to take staff members out to do bottom samples using claming boats.

CCA Virginia Fisheries Management Committee members feel that the location and configuration of this artificial reef will still allow adequate space for commercial fishermen to work their gear in the adjacent waters. We do not have any objection to moving the reef slightly to the south or east. We do feel strongly that the size of the reef should not be decreased and that, due to the large population base that would make use of the reef, the size could probably be increased by 20% to 30%. We are concerned with the safety implications if the reef is moved substantially eastward where it would interfere with commercial barge traffic.

It is important that your opinions be heard. Send letters, emails or a fax in support of the reefs. Simple statements in your own words are better than a form letter. Below is a sample of all that is necessary. We encourage all interested individuals or fishing club representatives to attend the March 27th commission meeting and speak in favor of the project.

Mr. Travelstead,

I would like to voice my support of the reef that are proposed in the Bluefish Rock area. The proposed reef site is but a small portion of the total area that is available for recreational and commercial fishing. Recreational fishermen along the southwestern shore of the Chesapeake Bay deserve the opportunity to fish for structure-based fish that would be attracted to the proposed reef. Back River Reef is well used and frequently crowded. While the size of the proposed reef may be considered adequate by some and to big by others it is my opinion that it should be increased by 25% so that it can accommodate the thousands of recreational fishermen that live and fish in the local areas.

Sincerely,

Your Name
Address
City, State
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The preceding was provided as a public service by the Coastal Conservation Association Virginia (CCA VA). Feel free it to forward it to your associates. If you have any comments concerning this issue, or would like to have your name added/removed from the distribution list send an email to [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]> . The CCA VA is a 501 C-3 charitable organization whose goal is CPR for fish&#8230;Conserve, Protect and Restore marine resources for the benefit of all Virginians. Please visit our website located at Welcome to Coastal Conservation Association Virginia <http://www.ccavirginia.org/> for more information.

CCA VA Fisheries Management Committee
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Douglas:

I can not take credit for the "Well written and insightful synopsis -". Tom Powers one of our hardworking members did the majority of the work on the alert.

Frank Kearney
 
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