Commercial Electro Fishing Blue Catfish

To All Concerned Catfish Anglers,

 

Trophy Blue Catfish are in jeopardy.  The Virginia Marine Resources Commission is making electro fishing of blue catfish an official commercial fishery on select Virginia tidal rivers in 2020, including the James River. Fishing with electricity, to shock catfish up to the surface and collect with nets, is a new commercial fishing tool, and it is very controversial. As this proposal moves forward, VMRC should listen carefully to you, a part of the dedicated constituency of recreational anglers who fish Virginia's tidal rivers for blue catfish.

 

The regulation proposed to begin in 2020 would grant three commercial electro-fishing permits for the unlimited commercial harvest of blue catfish up to 32”, one for the James, Rappahannock and the York. Such harvesting of every catfish 32” and smaller will certainly devastate the future of an already stressed trophy blue cat catch-and-release fishery on these rivers, especially the James River. 

 

YOUR ACTION IS NEEDED RIGHT NOW IN THE FORM OF AN EMAIL OR MAILED LETTER.

 

Our trophy catfish tourism industry, enjoyed by a massive group who spend millions of dollars on the James River alone, should be recognized and built upon, not crippled by harvest.  

 

Fewer than 5% of blue catfish on the James exceed 22”.  According to 2019 Department of Game & Inland Fisheries catch data, the fish over 22” make up only 4.25% of the population. 

 

Compromise is the urgent here.  The amount of blue catfish in the tidal James is staggering and needs to be reduced. While electro harvesting smaller catfish will be a benefit to building and maintaining the future of trophy blue catfish, commercially harvesting the catfish from 22” to 32” will cripple the future of our trophies.  Congressional Seafood is one of the largest processors of blue catfish in the region and as of the fall of 2017 they can only accept fish up to 22".  Lowering the maximum size limit to 22” (from the proposed 32”), offers legal access to over a huge percentage of the population AND gives the constituency of catfish anglers hope for a future. Let 22” be the point of compromise for commercial electro-fishing permits and allow the future of this current sportfish and multi-million-dollar tourism industry to continue by allowing the mid-sized fish (22”-32”) to grow into trophies. 

 

WRITING LETTERS IS KEY RIGHT NOW!!

 

Please take the time to copy the letter below or write your own and email to Pat Geer, Incoming Chief of Fisheries for the Virginia Marine Resources Commission:

 

pat.geer@mrc.virginia.gov  

 

Or Mail to:

 

Virginia Marine Resources Commission

Attention: Pat Geer

380 Fenwick Rd 

Building 96

Fort Monroe 23651

 

 

 

PLEASE PASTE THE FOLLOWING LETTER WITH ANY ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS YOU HAVE AND SEND IT TO PAT GEER (pat.geer@mrc.virginia.gov)  THANK YOU FOR TAKING THIS IMPORTANT STEP TO HELP SAVE THE JAMES RIVER BLUE CATFISH FISHERY.

 

 

 

 

Mr. Geer,

A world class fishery remains in jeopardy.  The Virginia Marine Resources Commission is considering making electro-harvesting of blue catfish an official commercial fishery on select Virginia tidal rivers in 2020. Electro-harvesting is a new commercial fishing tool, and it is controversial. As this proposal moves forward, VMRC should listen carefully to a large, dedicated constituency of recreational and professional catfish anglers who fish the Commonwealth’s tidal rivers for blue catfish.

 

The regulation proposed to begin in 2020 would grant three electro-harvest permits for the unlimited commercial harvest of blue catfish up to 32”. Such harvesting of every catfish 32” and smaller will certainly devastate the future of an already stressed trophy (32” and greater) blue cat catch-and-release fishery. 

 

The catfish tourism industry should be recognized and built upon, not crippled by harvest.  The lure of catfishing, continues to grow as a destination sport nationally, and the James River is currently a nationally renowned travel destination for trophy blues.  It hosts numerous national and regional tournaments. The fishery has a massive, multi-state constituency of anglers who hire guides and/or outfit their lives to chase trophy blue catfish all year long. These anglers spend money at marinas, tackle shops, gas stations, hotels and restaurants.  They also buy fishing licenses.  On the James River alone, sport fishing for blue catfish brings in over two million dollars a year to our immediate local economy. 

 

Fewer than 5% of blue catfish on the James exceed 22”.  According to 2019 Department of Game & Inland Fisheries catch data, the fish over 22” make up only 4.25% of the population.  Commercially electro-harvesting the biomass of blue cats 22” and smaller for human consumption is a viable way to manage over 95% of the blue catfish population. These are also the fish with the lowest levels of PCBs. 

 

Win-Win? Compromise at the 22” level? At the NOAA Catfish Symposium meeting at the VCU Rice Rivers Center in November of 2017, Tim Sughrue, from Congressional Seafood, stated they accept and process blue catfish up to 22” only. Congressional is one of the largest processors of blue catfish in the region.  Lowering the maximum size limit to 22", both offers legal access to 95% of the population AND gives the constituency of catfish anglers hope for a future. Let 22” be the point of compromise for electro-harvesting permits and allow the future of this current sportfish & multi-million-dollar tourism industry to continue by allowing the mid-sized fish (22”-32”) to grow into trophies. 

 

Thank you. We hope the VMRC will lower the maximum size of commercially harvested blue catfish from the current proposed 32”, find compromise, and show they value the large constituency of the trophy blue catfish anglers on the James River and other tidal rivers of Virginia.

 

Respectfully,

 

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