Tuesday, March 19, 2013

PRFC, VMRC, VDGIF and Potomac Jurisdiction

There are three major government agencies within Virginia who have control of licensing, boating, fishing, hunting and other aspects of the laws and regulations around the Potomac River basin.  These agencies are:

PRFC - Potomac River Fisheries Commission
  -   Potomac Rockfish regulations and limits (PRFC "Blue Sheet")

VMRC - Virginia Marine Resources Commission
  -  Virginia Fisherman Identification Program (FIP)
  -  Coastal and Chesapeake Bay Rockfish regulations and limits

VDGIF - Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
  -  Fishing Licenses - Saltwater and Fresh Water
  -  Boat Registration and Titling

We'll talk briefly about each one of them and the limits of their jurisdiction pertaining to Rockfish and the Potomac River.

PRFC - Potomac River Fisheries Commission


The Potomac River Fisheries Commission (Commission) is the Maryland-Virginia bi-state regulatory authority for fishery matters in the mainstem tidal Potomac River from Washington, DC to the Chesapeake Bay. The Commission is comprised of eight members, four appointed by the governor of Maryland and four appointed by the governor of Virginia.

The Commission is responsible for adopting the rules, regulations and licenses for the recreational and commercial taking, catching or attempting to take or catch fish, crabs, oysters and clams from the Potomac River. The Commission regulations carry the full force and effect of law and are jointly enforced by the Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) Marine Police. Both the Maryland District Courts and Virginia General District Courts have jurisdiction to adjudicate violations of the Commission’s regulations.

The Commission meets four to six times each year and most meetings are held in the Commissioner’s Hearing Room at its office in Colonial Beach, VA. All Commission meetings are open and the public is invited and encouraged to attend. The Commission also has three citizen advisory committees, one for finfish matters, one for crab issues, and one for oyster and clam concerns. These committee meetings are, likewise, open public meetings and are held in Colonial Beach, VA.

VMRC - Virginia Marine Resources Commission


Established in 1875 as the Virginia Fish Commission, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) is one of the oldest agencies in Virginia State Government. Until the last decade, shellfish regulation has dominated much of the agency's activities because of the economic and cultural importance of the oyster industry. Private leasing of State bottom for the planting and propagation of oysters appears to have begun before 1875, but it was not until 1884 that the Commonwealth set up the Board of the Chesapeake to handle the regulations of the oyster industry. Public oyster grounds were mapped (the so-called Baylor Survey) during 1892-1895.

The Fish Commission, which at that time dealt with both fresh and saltwater fisheries issues, was consolidated with the Board of the Chesapeake in 1898 to form the Board of Fisheries, later the Commission of Fisheries, which was given the task of managing all shellfish and finfish issues statewide.

The Habitat Management Division of the Commission traces its origin to 1962 when the responsibility for permit encroachments in or over State-owned submerged lands was transferred from the Office of the Attorney General to the Commission of Fisheries. This made marine management in Virginia unique in that living resources, and the habitat on which they depend, came under the jurisdiction of the same agency.

A legislative study commission in 1967 recommended a broadened mission resulting in the agency being renamed the Virginia Marine Resources Commission in 1968 by an act of the Virginia General Assembly. The Virginia Wetlands Act was passed in 1972 and placed under the management of VMRC, as was the 1980 Coastal Primary Sand Dune Protection Act. In 1982, the General Assembly broadened the 1972 Wetlands Act to include non-vegetated wetlands. In 1984, a distinct Fisheries Management Division was created and its authority over fisheries issues was strengthened.

The VMRC handles the Virginia Fisherman Identification Program (FIP).  This program was put into place to ensure that anyone over the age of 16 who fishes in Virginia Marine waters is identified for the purposes of determining how many anglers are out there.  One instance where this comes into play is when someone goes fishing on my boat.  I have a boat license from the VDGIF.  My boat license allows anyone to fish from my boat.  So, if I have 6 people fishing from my boat on a daily basis, there is no record of any of them since they didn't have to purchase their own fishing license.  So, the Fisherman Identification Program was created to help alleviate that issue.  It's free to register - just call their phone number (1-800-723-2728) or register online.  This is a requirement if you fish, but aren't required to purchase a license.

VDGIF - Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries


The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' mission is:
  • to manage Virginia's wildlife and inland fish to maintain optimum populations of all species to serve the needs of the Commonwealth;
  • to provide opportunity for all to enjoy wildlife, inland fish, boating and related outdoor recreation and to work diligently to safeguard the rights of the people to hunt, fish and harvest game as provided for in the Constitution of Virginia;
  • to promote safety for persons and property in connection with boating, hunting and fishing;
  • to provide educational outreach programs and materials that foster an awareness of and appreciation for Virginia's fish and wildlife resources, their habitats, and hunting, fishing, and boating opportunities.
VDGIF is responsible for the management of inland fisheries, wildlife, and recreational boating for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Department has an operational budget of approximately $55 million.

Contact Information for all agencies


MARYLAND (Except for Potomac River)
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Tawes State Office building, B-2
580 Taylor Avenue
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
(800) 688 FINS

VIRGINIA (For Areas Below Rt. 301. Bridge)
Virginia Marine Resources Commission
2600 Washington Avenue
Newport News, Virginia 23607
(757) 247-2200

VIRGINIA (For Areas Above Rt. 301 Bridge)
Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
4010 West Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23230
((804) 367-1000

D.C. Fisheries and Wildlife Division
1200 First Street, N.E.,
Washington, DC 20002 (202)997-9607

Potomac River Fisheries Commission
P.O. Box 9
Colonial Beach, Virginia 22443
(804) 224-7148 or (800) 266-3904

Maryland: (410) 260-8888 or (800) 628-9944
Virginia: (757) 247-2265 or (800) 541-4646

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