Virginia Delegate moves to roll back penalties for commercial fishing violations

Virginia’s 18-month-old effort to crack down on oyster theft and other fisheries violations with stiffer penalties for offenders would be rolled back with a bill sponsored by Del. Gordon Helsel, R-Poquoson. Another measure would end a six-decade-old prohibition on taking oyster dredges through the sanctuaries the state set up to give undersized oysters a chance to grow. Helsel is proposing to cut the maximum penalty for violating state rules for harvesting shellfish and fin-fish to a two-year license suspension from the five-year limit the General Assembly unanimously approved in 2015. Helsel voted for the measure, which had strong backing from commercial fishermen. His bill, H.B. 1573, would also allow offenders to continue to catch other fish or shellfish than the type they took illegally — so, a waterman who violated rules about taking oysters from polluted waters or from a sanctuary would be allowed to continue crabbing or gill-netting. Legislation in 2013, which also passed unanimously, allowed the state to suspend all tidal water fishing privileges for offenders. Read the story here 07:48

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