Since early spring, anglers have been concerned about the possible early closure of the 2016 Virginia cobia season in federal and possibly, state waters.
In early March, NOAA Fisheries announced that the recreational harvest of Atlantic migratory group cobia (from Georgia to New York) will close at 12:01 a.m. on June 20, 2016. Recreational harvest of cobia will reopen on January 1, 2017.
In 2015, both the recreational and the total annual catch limits of Atlantic migratory group cobia were exceeded, triggering the accountability measure for 2016.
In 2015, the cobia Atlantic stock (Georgia through New York) recreational annual catch limit (ACL) was 630,000 pounds.
A preliminary estimate of landings for the Atlantic Stock recreational sector was 1,540,775 pounds, with 862,281 pounds (56%) from Virginia’s recreational sector. The total value represents landings that are 245% of the recreational ACL and 231% of the stock’s ACL.
According to NOAA Fisheries, the closure is required by regulations implemented under the Fishery Management Plan for Coastal Migratory Pelagic Resources of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Region.
Beginning in 2011, all fisheries existing in federal waters were required under the Magnuson-Stevens Act to be regulated using annual catch limits (ACLs).
MAY 24 UPDATE:
May 24, 2016: After a 4 1/2 hour debate, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission voted to not close the recreational cobia season in June, as requested by the National Marine Fisheries Service following unexpectedly high catch rates last year.
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.
sources: Virginia Marine Resources Commission, NOAA Fisheries