Virginia: Pro-Sportsmen’s Bills Signed into Law

Contact: John Culclasure, Southeastern States Assistant Director 

Virginia’s 2020 legislative session concluded with pro-sportsmen’s bills signed into law. 

Management of Menhaden Fishery 

On March 8, legislation was signed into law that transfers authority to manage Atlantic menhaden from the legislature to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. Menhaden are important forage food for many recreationally important species, and the legislation will enable the Commonwealth to comply with the Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Atlantic menhaden after the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission found the Commonwealth out of compliance with Amendment 3 of the FMP for its failure to enforce the Chesapeake Bay Fishery Cap. Secretary Ross subsequently affirmed the noncompliance finding, and the legislation was necessary to avoid a moratorium on fishing for Atlantic menhaden in Virginia state waters. 

Increased Penalties for Hunting, Angling and Trapping Violations

On March 12, legislation that increases the penalties for various hunting, angling and trapping violations was signed into law. Sponsored by Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) Member Delegate Hyland “Buddy” Fowler, HB 449 provides that any person convicted of violating laws prohibiting hunting or fishing out of season, hunting while under the influence of alcohol or any narcotic drug, shooting from vehicles and various other wildlife related violations, may be prohibited by the court from hunting, trapping or fishing in the Commonwealth for a period of one to five years. 

Legislation to Establish Elk Hunting in Virginia

On March 12, legislation that authorizes the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries (Board) to create a separate special elk license to hunt elk within the designated elk management zone was signed into law. The bill also authorizes the Board to establish quotas and procedures to purchase a special elk license and authorizes the Board to charge nonrefundable application fees for residents and nonresidents. Caucus Co-Chair Delegate James Edmunds sponsored the legislation.

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The use of descending devices to safely release your catch has shown they significantly reduce the discard mortality of fish caught from deep water. Reducing discard mortality in both the commercial and recreational sector will translate to more abundant populations and additional access opportunities for anglers. Do you support the use of descending devices while reef fishing to safely release your catch?

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