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Year round deer hunt, menhaden ban bills die

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Two sweeping revisions of Virginia wildlife law – one on deer hunting the other on the state’s largest fishery - effectively died for the 2023 session on Wednesday.

The deer bill would have allowed year-round hunting on private property, instead of the current limited seasons for various weapons and different counties set by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.

“I’m hearing from so many constituents about hitting deer" when driving, said Del. Marie March, R-Floyd, the bill sponsor.

“My parents, who’ve never had an accident, hit a deer when they came to visit at Christmas,” she said. “When my son took driver’s ed, he hit a deer and totaled the driver’s ed car. … after my parents’ accident I bought a scanner and I’m hearing deer hits all day long.”

State Farm says Virginia is a high risk state for deer collisions, with a 1 in 72 chance of insured drivers filing a claim. 

But a House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee panel unanimously voted to lay the bill on the table – which means it is technically possible but extremely unlikely to be revived.

There was no debate.

The full committee did the same with a proposal by Del. Tim Anderson, R-Virginia Beach for a two-year ban on Reedville-based Omega Protein’s menhaden fishing in Chesapeake Bay.

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It also acted without debate, or even any public comment from Omega's lobbyists.

“We’ve heard this issue before,” committee chairman Lee Ware, R-Powhatan, said.

Menhaden

A school of Menhaden swam off the coast of Virginia Beach.

The company’s harvest in the Bay, currently capped at 51,000 metric tons, accounts for about 29% of Virginia’s total quota for the catch.

But Omega says being able to fish in the Bay is vital when weather and sea conditions mean operating out on the ocean would be unsafe.

Sports fishermen have pressed for years for more limits on the menhaden catch, arguing that Omega is taking too many fish, and leaving the population too low to help the popular gamefish striped bass that feed on menhaden.

But the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s new way of assessing the stock, which looks at how menhaden population affects the numbers of striped bass and other species concluded that the menhaden stock was healthy and was not depressed striped bass numbers. The commission, which sets coastwide quotas for threatened species, has said striped bass are overfished – that is, that fisherman are catching too many to sustain the population.

Anderson said Virginia shouldn’t rely on the coastwide analysts of the ASMFC, and said his moratorium was needed to study the impact of the menhaden fishery on other species and on Bay water quality,

Dave Ress (804) 649-6948

dress@timesdispatch.com

@DaveRess1 on Twitter

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