Regulations to protect Sea Turtles from the Virginia Pound Net Fishery
NMFS is requiring that any offshore pound net leader in the Virginia waters of the mainstem Chesapeake Bay, south of 37°19.0′ N. lat. and west of 76°13.0′ W. long., and all waters south of 37°13.0′ N. lat. to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, and the James and York Rivers downstream of the first bridge in each tributary, during the period of May 6 through July 15, meet the definition of a modified pound net leader. Without this final rule, existing regulations would continue to prohibit all offshore pound net leaders in that area during that time frame. An offshore pound net leader refers to a leader with the inland end set greater than 10 horizontal feet (3 m) from the mean low water line. While restrictions promulgated in 2004 on pound net leaders in the Virginia waters of the Chesapeake Bay outside the aforementioned area remain in effect, this final rule creates an exception to those restrictions by allowing the use of modified pound net leaders in this area. This action, taken under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA), responds to new information generated by gear research. It is intended to conserve sea turtles listed as threatened under the ESA and to help enforce the provisions of the ESA, including the provisions against takes of endangered species, while enabling fishermen to use leaders, an important component of pound net gear, during the regulated period.