Again the rec fisherman suffers the loss of a program that helps to promote va fishing along with data that is irreplaceable. Please don’t let this go……this is such a big part of our fishery. The loss will only be known if the program is not continued.
The Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament is defunded as of July 1 in the Governor’s budget. The program is funded with angler’s license money but those funds are targeted to be transferred to cover budget cuts. The citation program was established 1958 to promote and enhance recreational fishing. It has been a tremendous success and its loss will be acutely felt by tackle shops, charter captains, marinas and all other businesses that that depend on recreational fishing. But beyond this, it has become a valuable source of catch data not available anywhere else. The current cobia issues are an example where managers are using an old stock assessment that showed a continuing decline in the stock biomass and assume that trend has continued. The citation program shows that the spawning stock biomass has been increasing every year since the last stock assessment. This was a big reason Virginia was able to have a cobia fishery last summer.
The last time the citation program’s funding was taken, anglers yelled and the General Assembly restored the funding. It may be do so again this time but anglers need to be vocal and contact their representatives in Richmond, now. Refunding the program would be the best outcome. Another path could be possible budget language allowing a $3 assessment to recreational licenses. This would comply with the Governor’s budget cuts while allowing the VSWFT to be funded (again) by Virginia’s anglers. This would also generate enough to refund call-in registration to the federally-mandated Fisherman Identification Program. Paying for these programs twice is not ideal but is a better outcome than losing an irreplaceable source of data.