Administrative Code

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Virginia Administrative Code
Title 4. Conservation And Natural Resources

4VAC20. Marine Resources Commission




The Marine Resources Commission has jurisdiction over commercial fishing and all marine fish, marine shellfish, marine organisms and habitat that extends to the fall line of all tidal rivers and streams of the Commonwealth. The Commission also exercises proprietary responsibility for the Commonwealth's submerged lands statewide. It may promulgate regulations and guidelines necessary to carry out the provisions of Title 28.2: Fisheries and Habitat of the Tidal Waters. Law-Enforcement of the Commission is the Virginia Marine Police. The Commission operates a marine police radio dispatch system. Code of Virginia, Title 28.2, Chapter 1.

The Commission is authorized to license the taking of various types of fish, shellfish, and marine organisms for different purposes and by different methods or devices, and to license exportation of oysters and purchasers of shellfish. It may assign and lease oyster and clam planting grounds. It may designate certain public grounds, close and open areas, fix or alter open seasons, restrict methods of taking, fix minimum size and maximum quantity of catch, and make other regulations for purposes of conservation and promotion of the seafood industry. It may inspect records and vessels and other conveyances, and its officers have the power of arrest and may seize nets, gear and cargo. Code of Virginia, Title 28.2, Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It is authorized to prepare fishery management plans containing evaluations of regulatory management options based upon scientific, economic, biological, and sociological information. Code of Virginia, Title 28.2, Chapter 2. It is authorized to license the landing of seafood in the Commonwealth. Code of Virginia, Title 28.2, Chapter 3.

Jointly, with the Department of Health, it is responsible for enforcing statutes providing for control of sanitary conditions in packing houses and planting grounds (under which the Department of Health prescribes standards). The agencies may make uniform regulations for this purpose, and the Commission may license and make emergency regulations governing removal of shellfish from condemned areas. The Commission is authorized to promulgate regulations for the harvesting, transporting, handling and transplanting of wild and cultured seed-stock shellfish from condemned areas. The Commission may license the importation, for placing into state waters, of fish, shellfish or crustacea of species or from states or waters not on its approved lists. Code of Virginia, Title 28.2, Chapter 8.

The Commission is authorized to issue permits for the use of state-owned subaqueous beds, to issue permits to recover underwater historic property, and to establish bulkhead lines and private pier lines on or over waters subject to the Commonwealth's jurisdiction. It may require removal or repair of abandoned or hazardous structures or boats in or upon state waters. The Commission is required to develop, in consultation with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, guidelines containing criteria for use in defining existing beds of submerged aquatic vegetation and delineating areas where there is potential for restoring such vegetation. Code of Virginia, Title 28.2, Chapter 12. The Commission is also required to develop a general permit and integrated guidance to encourage the use of living shorelines to stabilize tidal shorelines. Code of Virginia, Title 28.2, Chapter 1.  It is also authorized to prescribe guidelines for the use of different types of wetlands and to adopt regulations to carry out the statute providing for their conservation. It reviews all decisions of local wetlands boards with respect to permits for the use or development of wetlands. It issues permits for such use as to wetlands owned by the Commonwealth, and as to other lands in localities that have not adopted the statutorily authorized wetlands zoning ordinance. Code of Virginia, Title 28.2, Chapter 13. It has similar authority respecting uses of coastal primary sand dunes and some beaches. Code of Virginia, Title 28.2, Chapter 14. It may promulgate regulations in order to manage all ungranted shores of the sea, marsh and meadowlands. Code of Virginia, Title 28.2, Chapter 15.

The agency's Virginia Marine Police Division is an integral part of all the activities described above and is specifically responsible for a variety of activities to include: patrol of the tidal waters and shoreline of the Chesapeake Bar, its tidal tributaries and territorial sea; the enforcement all federal, state and interstate compact organization marine fishery and habitat conservation laws and regulations; participation in a Joint Enforcement Agreement with NOAA for enforcement efforts for marine wildlife and fish in federal waters; the enforcement of health laws pertaining to the harvesting of seafood from condemned areas; the enforcement of federal FDA laws pertaining to the National Shellfish Sanitation Program; enforcement or assistance to other local, state and federal agencies in enforcing laws pertaining to the removal of obstructions and abandoned vessels from the water; enforcement of boating safety operation and navigation laws; the performance of boating accident investigations for accidents in Virginia's tidal waters; performance of Search and Rescue efforts in marine waters with local, state and federal agencies; performance of Homeland Defense duties in Virginia's tidal waters and at its ports to include protection from terrorist attacks at federal and state water-related installations and other water-related locations within the tidal waters of the Commonwealth as may be designated by federal or state officials as important to national security; conservation and protection efforts for oysters to include poaching activities; and all other police duties as may be assigned.

The Commission operates under the supervision of the Secretary of Natural Resources. Regulations are available at the Commission's office at 380 Fenwick Road, Building 96, Fort Monroe, VA 23651. Copies are also filed with the clerks of circuit courts in Tidewater counties and cities. Internet address:

Rev. 08/2019


Website addresses provided in the Virginia Administrative Code to documents incorporated by reference are for the reader's convenience only, may not necessarily be active or current, and should not be relied upon. To ensure the information incorporated by reference is accurate, the reader is encouraged to use the source document described in the regulation.

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