May 24, 2019Virginia Seafood Sustainability Report

Virginia Seafood Sustainability March 2018

Virginia Seafood Sustainability
A report requested by the Virginia Marine Products Board
Robert A. Fisher
Virginia Institute of Marine Science Virginia Sea Grant-Affiliated Extension
March 2018


Virginia Seafood Sustainability1

Virginia’s commercial fisheries operate sustainably under a suite of management tools based upon information received from marine scientists and fishery managers who regularly conduct biological sampling of fish while tracking commercial landings and other gathering of required information. Analyses of fishing effort and overall stock conditions, as well as formulas designed to calculate threshold limits for maintaining sustainable stocks are regularly performed.Restrictions on seasons, size, days at sea, and gear are imposed as needed to achieve management supporting long-term biological sustainability.

Virginia’s marine fisheries are managed by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC). Virginia wild fisheries have plans to sustain harvests and to rebuild stock sizes fallen below scientifically derived target sustainability levels. Producers provide mandatory information on their harvest levels and practices and are subject to operational monitoring to ensure compliance. The VMRC and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) maintain cooperative law enforcement at the harvest and wholesale distribution levels, enforcing regulations that insure the chain of custody of seafood products is documented with harvesters and seafood dealers. Virginia shellfish aquaculture products are grown and harvested under strict regulation by the VMRC and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), Division of Shellfish Sanitation, which includes mandatory educational training on safe harvest and handling for harvesters and dealers. In addition there are educational resources such as Best Management Practices (BMP’s) developed for Virginia’s shellfish culture industry which encourage and support sustainable practices.

All migratory fish moving through Virginia coastal waters are co-managed with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). Through interstate fishery management plans, the ASMFC oversees 22 species of marine fish (including 7 species of shark) and promulgates regulations for those species that all Atlantic Coast states must follow. Fish that primarily inhabit offshore waters (more than 3 miles off the Virginia coast) are managed by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC), part of the National Marine Fisheries Service. Other states represented in the Mid-Atlantic region include North Carolina, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. The MAFMC currently manages 13 offshore marine fish species, including Atlantic mackerel, butterfish, spiny dogfish, surf clam, tilefish, bluefish, summer flounder, and black sea bass. Highly migratory species, such as swordfish, are managed in federal waters directly by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Additionally other import products such as the Atlantic Sea Scallop are co-managed by the MAFMC and the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC).

1Source: Marine Advisory Service, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William & Mary. February 2018. Previous versions of this report include: VIMS Marine Resource Report No. 2015-5 (May 2015) and VIMS Marine Resource Report No. 2011-1 (January 2011)

Summary of Sustainability Measures for Primary Virginia Marine Fishery Products2

Common Name Scientific Name Managing Agency Size Limit Quota Overfished Gear Limits Seasonal Closures
Black Sea Bass Centropristis striata ASMFC, MAFMC Y Y N Y Y
Bluefish Pomatomus saltatrix ASMFC, MAFMC N Y N N N
Butterfish Peprilus triacanthus MAFMC N Y N Y Y
Crab, Blue Callinectes sapidus Ches. Bay Watershed Agreement3 Y Y N Y Y
Crab, Blue (softshell) Callinectes sapidus VMRC Y N N Y Y
Crab, red Chaceon quinquedens NEFMC Male only fishery Y N Y
Croaker Micropogonias undulates ASMFC N N N N N
Dogfish (spiny) Squalus acanthias ASMFC, MAFMC N Y N Y Y
Eastern Oyster (aquaculture) Crassostrea virginica VMRC, VDH N N N Y N
Eastern Oyster (wild) Crassostrea virginica VMRC, VDH Y N N Y Y
Flounder (summer) Paralichthys dentatus ASMFC, MAFMC Y Y N Y Y
Grey Trout / Weakfish Cynoscion regalis ASMFC Y N N Y Y
Hard Clam (aquaculture) Mercenaria mercenaria VMRC, VDH N N N N N
Hard Clam (wild) Mercenaria mercenaria VMRC Y N N N
Monkfish / Goosefish Lophius americanus MAFMC, NEFMC Y Y N Y Y
Scallop (sea) Placopecten magellanicus NOAA, NEFMC Y Y N Y Y (Areas)
Northern Puffer / Sugar Toad Sphoeroides maculatus N/A N N Unknown N N
Scup / Porgy Stenotomus chrysops ASMFC, MAFMC Y Y N Y Y
Spot Leiostomus xanthurus ASMFC N N Unknown N N
Spotted Seatrout / Speckled Trout Cynoscion nebulosus ASMFC Y Y N N N
Striped Bass Morone saxatilis ASMFC Y Y N N Y
Whelk, Channeled Busycotypus canaliculatus VMRC Y Y N Y N

2Sources: N.O.A.A. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC), Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC), Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC).

3The Chesapeake Bay blue crab fishery is managed by three jurisdictions: the State of Maryland, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission, all participating in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement.


Black Sea Bass



Catfish (blue)

Crab (blue)

  • VMRC (scroll down to “crab” section)
  • VMRC

Crab (red)


Dogfish (spiny)

Eastern Oyster (wild)

  • VMRC (scroll down to “oyster” section)
  • VMRC

Eastern Oyster (hatchery-based aquaculture) and Hard Clam (hatchery-based aquaculture)

Flounder (summer)

Grey Trout (weakfish)

Monkfish / Goosefish

Scallop (sea)


Spotted Seatrout/Speckled Trout

Striped Bass

Whelk (channeled)

VIMS Marine Resource Report No. 2018-2
Additional copies of this publication are available from:
Robert A. Fisher
Marine Advisory Services / Virginia Sea Grant Extension Program Virginia Institute of Marine Science
P.O. Box 1346
Gloucester Point, VA 23062
Front and back cover photos: Robert A. Fisher
This work is a result of research sponsored in part by NOAA Office of Sea Grant, U.S. Department of Commerce, under Grant No. NA180AR4170083 to the Virginia Sea Grant Program. The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of any of those organizations.