News Archives

ISFMP Policy Board Recommends Virginia Be Found Out of Compliance with Addendum I to the Horseshoe Crab FMP

April 5, 2000

Alexandria, Virginia – The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Interstate Fisheries Management Program (ISFMP) Policy Board has recommended that the Commonwealth of Virginia be found out-of-compliance, effective May 1, 2000, with the required landings cap provision of Addendum I to the Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for horseshoe crab.

Specifically, Virginia’s state plan for its 2000 fishing season fails to meet the required landings cap of 152,495 horseshoe crabs, which is 25 percent below the Commonwealth’s average landings between 1995–1997. This action was based on the recommendation of the Horseshoe Crab Management Board. The Commonwealth of Virginia reported that it is unable to implement the landings cap of Addendum I because it does not meet the Commonwealth’s legal standards for fishery management regulations. These standards include measures which define overfishing and establish stock rebuilding targets. Virginia believes that implementing the required landings cap would require legislative action by the General Assembly, which is not scheduled to meet again until January 2001. The implications of Virginia’s inaction are expected to be substantial and have the potential of negating most of the conservation measures gained by reductions in other Atlantic coast states.

Under Addendum I, the total coastwide reduction in horseshoe crab landings in 2000 is expected to be 1.3 million crabs. This figure includes additional efforts by the States of Maryland and New Jersey to further reduce their landings by more than the required 25 percent (70 and 50 percent, respectively). By maintaining its established cap of 710,000 crabs, Virginia’s harvest would consume nearly half of the coastwide reductions sought by the Management Board through Addendum I.

The recommendation now goes to the full Commission for final action. The Commission will meet in Portland, Maine in June 2000. If the Commission finds Virginia out-of-compliance, the Commission’s ISFMP Charter requires the Executive Director to notify the State, Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of the Interior of the Commission’s determination within 10 working days of the Commission’s finding.

Upon receipt of the recommendation, the Secretary of Commerce has 30 days to review the recommendation and take final action. If Virginia should remain out-of-compliance with Addendum I, then ultimately the Secretary of Commerce could place a moratorium on Virginia’s horseshoe crab fishery (pursuant to 16 U.S.C. 5106).

These actions are the result of the Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act, which mandates a cooperative state/federal program to conserve and manage valuable coastal fisheries. It requires the Commission to prepare and adopt FMPs. It also imposes an obligation on each state covered by a FMP to implement and enforce the FMP’s regulations in state waters, or else face the possibility of a federal moratorium on fishing for the affected species in that state.

Regardless of what action is taken by Virginia or the Secretary of Commerce this year, any overages in a state’s landings cap will be subtracted in the following year(s), based on action taken by the Board this week. Given that Virginia’s overage in 2000 is likely to be substantial, Virginia may be required to close its horseshoe crab fishery for several years.

For more information, please contact Thomas O’Connell, Fisheries Management Plan Coordinator, at (410) 260-8271