Despite a federal regulation in place restricting cobia fishing off Atlantic coast, the state of Virginia has defied it and left the season open until August 30th.
This past Tuesday, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission voted 5-4 to keep the Commonwealth's cobia season open until August 30th of this year. The debate lasted well over four hours. The National Marine Fisheries Service issued a South Atlantic Marine Fishery Council order that would have closed the cobia fishery starting June 20th spanning from Georgia to New York. As a response, this order didn't sit well with Virginia anglers and others serviced by the fishing industry in the state.
The Commission did raise the size limit from 37 to 40 inches, kept a one-fish per person possession limit, instituted a two-fish daily vessel limit, allowing only one of those fish to be more than 50 inches, for all vessels including for-hire (charter and head boats). The Commission also voted prohibited the gaffing of cobia by recreational anglers. In addition, the Commission decided to close the fishery on August 30 and will begin a reporting system for recreational anglers to report their cobia catches to the agency. The Commission had been requested by the National Marine Fisheries Service to close the recreational cobia fishery on June 20 because federal data showed the Georgia-New York allowable recreational catch of cobia was greatly exceeded in 2015 and Virginia alone caught the entire coastal quota.
The federal government is requiring states to adopt the closure of cobia fisheries due to alleged overfishing for this particular species, arguing anglers had far exceeded the Allowable Catch Limit in 2015. Had the original cut-off date of June 20th gone into effect, Virginia anglers and small businesses would have suffered greatly.
"This is a conservation measure to keep our economy going and give our anglers time and give the feds time to fix their mess," said Commissioner Ken Neill to Virginian-Pilot, Virginia's representative to the International Game Fish Association. "This is much more restrictive than we've ever fished."
Virginia's economy heavily relies on recreational fishing from our coast. Any restriction placed on prized game fish--especially cobia--is bad for the state and surrounding states which benefit from resources from the Atlantic Ocean.
The federal government has no business depriving law-abiding anglers with the opportunities to fish for cobia, especially since anglers practice sustainable fishing. I'm glad to see my state defy federal regulations, although the concessions weren't as ideal as they could be.