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VMRC wants to buy back crabbing licenses

by Larry S. Chowning

“It’s a unique opportunity for guys getting ready to get out of the fishery. They will never see this type of financial opportunity again.”
– Jack Travelstead, Chief of Fisheries Management
In July, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) approved a $6.7 million crab license buyback program in an attempt to decrease the number of crabbers working Virginia waters.

Chief of Fisheries Management Jack Travelstead said the 2008 federally-funded $15 million Crab Disaster Relief Program will pay for buying back crab pot and peeler pot licenses from willing watermen. 

The purpose of the program is to restructure the crab fishery, to eliminate a lot of excess effort, and reduce year-to-year regulations, said Travelstead. “We also hope it will provide more permanent jobs for full-time crabbers in the fishery. We know the crab fishery is over capacity.”

There are currently 1,800 licensed commercial crabbers in Virginia. Travelstead contends the 200 best crabbers in the state are capable of harvesting the entire state harvest levels that are recommended to preserve the fishery. “We’ve got way too many people in the fishery,” he said.

“We know we are not going to be able to eliminate all we need to eliminate, but we think the program will go a long ways to solving this problem,” he said.

The program also is open to those on the VMRC license waiting list.  “Even though these licenses are not active right now, they will be activated when the resource recovers in a number of years,” Travelstead said.

“There are marginal operators out there and there are people, who for whatever reason, are ready to exit the fishery,” he said. “It’s a unique opportunity for guys getting ready to get out of the fishery. They will never see this type of financial opportunity again.”

posted 08.10.2009

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