Email from Dr Ken Neill on Cobia in Virginia

Here you go:

These are the people, along with Commissioner John Bull, who will decide your Virginia cobia regulations. Being at and speaking at the commission meeting is powerful. Especially comments about how this will affect you/Virginia financially. Wes Blow was very eloquent at the finfish advisory meeting saying that if there was ever a time for Virginia to not follow Federal regulations, now is the time.

I expect VMRC staff to say we have to mirror regulations in federal waters. I’ll support most anything for 2016: 1 fish boat limit, increased minimum size to just about anything….even maybe a truncated season…. June through August maybe… if that will help our charter captains/marinas/tackle shops stay in business.

I understand that Magnuson-Stevens requires NOAA to act and that the cobia management plan was “brilliantly” set up to give a closure in federal waters as their only tool they can and have to use in 2016. The answer cannot simply be that states to our south get to keep almost their entire cobia fishery while Virginia gets almost our entire cobia fishery taken away. That is so blatantly unjust, inequitable, and unfair that it is simply indefensible. I’m all for Virginia doing her share. I’m even OK with Virginia doing more than her share. I’m not OK with Virginia doing her fair share along with every other states’ fair share.

This is what will happen in 2016 and in 2017 and beyond if we allow the management tool to simply be to pick a date on the calendar to close the season for the coast. Southern states will always take less of a burden than Virginia. They could do it in reverse, heck even keep the June 20 date but make that the date the season opens. Have it closed from January 1 until whatever date that the numbers say that they can open the season for the east coast. It would get the same required reduction without making Virginia take almost all of the reduction on herself for the entire coast. The SAFMC and the states to our south should think about that and what it would do to their cobia fisheries as that is what they are doing to Virginia by picking a date to close the east coast.

For 2017 and beyond, I certainly hope that our federal fishery managers do a better job of coming up with a management plan that protects our cobia stock while not placing undue burden on a single state. We have to do something in 2016. As stated, I will support almost anything to reduce Virginia’s recreational cobia take but I will not support closing Virginia’s state waters on June 20 or whatever the final date of the closure in federal waters ends up being. I have no idea what my fellow commissioners will do.

Dr. Ken Neill, III
IGFA Representative
President, Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association, Inc.
Associate Commissioner Virginia Marine Resources Commission