Vol. 36 Iss. 6 - November 11, 2019

Chapter 960
Final Regulation

REGISTRAR'S NOTICE: The Marine Resources Commission is claiming an exemption from the Administrative Process Act in accordance with § 2.2-4006 A 11 of the Code of Virginia; however, the commission is required to publish the full text of final regulations.

Title of Regulation: 4VAC20-960. Pertaining to Tautog (amending 4VAC20-960-10, 4VAC20-960-20, 4VAC20-960-45; adding 4VAC20-960-48, 4VAC20-960-49, 4VAC20-960-60).

Statutory Authority: § 28.2-201 of the Code of Virginia.

Effective Date: January 1, 2020.

Agency Contact: Jennifer Farmer, Regulatory Coordinator, Marine Resources Commission, 380 Fenwick Road, Fort Monroe, VA 23651, telephone (757) 247-2248, or email


The amendments establish a tautog commercial permit and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission mandated tagging system.

4VAC20-960-10. Purpose.

The purpose of this chapter is to (i) reduce fishing mortality in the tautog fishery to assure that overfishing does not occur and, (ii) increase the spawning stock biomass, and (iii) establish criteria for monitoring commercially harvested tautog.

4VAC20-960-20. Definitions.

The following words and terms, when used in this chapter, shall have the following meaning unless the context clearly indicates otherwise.

"Commercial fishing" or "fishing commercially" or "commercial purposes" means fishing by any person where the catch is for sale, barter, or trade or is intended for sale, barter, or trade.

"Commission" means the Marine Resources Commission.

"Land" or "landing" means to move finfish, shellfish, crustaceans, or other marine seafood from the water to the land.

"Snout" means the most forward projection from a fish's head that includes the upper and lower jaw.

"Tautog" means any fish of the species Tautoga onitis.

"Total length" means the length of a fish measured from the most forward projection of the snout, with the mouth closed, to the tip of the longer lobe of the tail (caudal) fin, measured with the tail compressed along the midline, using a straight-line measure, not measured over the curve of the body.

4VAC20-960-45. Recreational fishing season and possession limits.

A. It shall be unlawful for any person fishing with hook and line, rod and reel, spear, gig or other recreational gear to possess more than four tautog. When fishing is from a boat or vessel where the entire catch is held in a common hold or container, the possession limit shall be for the boat or vessel and shall be equal to the number of persons on board legally eligible to fish multiplied by four. The captain or operator of the boat or vessel shall be responsible for any boat or vessel possession limit. Any tautog taken after the possession limit has been reached shall be returned to the water immediately.

B. Possession of any quantity of tautog that exceeds the possession limit described in subsection A of this section shall be presumed to be for commercial purposes.

C. B. The recreational fishing season shall be closed from May 16 through June 30.

D. C. It shall be unlawful for any person fishing recreationally to take, catch, or possess any tautog during any closed recreational fishing season.

4VAC20-960-48. Commercial permitting and tagging requirements.

A. It shall be unlawful for any registered commercial fisherman to take, catch, or possess any tautog without obtaining a valid Tautog Commercial Permit.

B. It shall be unlawful to land or possess for commercial purposes any tautog that has not been identified with a tag issued by the commission for the current calendar year, applied by the following conditions, except as specified in subsections D and E of this section:

1. Tags must be affixed to the bony portion of the gill cover (operculum) of a whole fish such that the tag number faces outward from the body.

2. Processed or filleted tautog must be accompanied by the tags removed from the fish when processed.

C. It shall be unlawful for any dealer to buy, sell, barter, or trade or offer to buy, sell, barter, or trade any untagged tautog.

D. After the last day of February of the current calendar year, it shall be unlawful for any dealer to buy, sell, barter, or trade or offer to buy, sell, barter, or trade any tautog with a tag issued for any previous calendar year, except to the final consumer.

E. Any person, other than the original harvester, may only possess tautog with a tag issued by a state other than Virginia provided that it is for the purpose of resale and is accompanied by a bill of sale that shall include the name of the seller and the permit or license number of the seller if such permit or license is required in the jurisdiction of harvest.

F. Tags are valid only for use by the permittee to whom the tags were allotted. The permittee shall be on board the vessel when tautog are harvested and tags are applied.

G. It shall be unlawful for any person to possess tags on board a vessel during a closed season or that were issued for any year other than the current calendar year.

H. Possession of any quantity of tautog that exceeds the recreational possession limit described in 4VAC20-960-45 shall be presumed to be for commercial purposes. The possession of any untagged tautog shall be prima facie evidence of a violation of this chapter and subject to the provisions of 4VAC20-960-50 and 4VAC20-960-60.

I. It shall be unlawful for a person to possess commercially harvested tautog in a quantity greater than the number of tags in the person's possession. If a permittee violates this section, the entire amount of untagged tautog shall be confiscated or returned to the water.

J. Altering or attempting to alter any tag for the purpose of reuse shall constitute a violation of this chapter.

K. An annual fee of $25 for tags shall be assessed prior to an individual being eligible for a Tautog Commercial Permit.

L. A tautog commercial permittee shall be required to have returned all unused tags from the previous calendar year to the commission by February 15 of the current calendar year. Any unused tags that cannot be returned shall be accounted for by the harvester submitting a notarized affidavit that explains the disposition of the tags. Each individual with any unused tags that are not returned shall be required to pay a processing fee of $25, plus $0.28 per tag.

4VAC20-960-49. Commercial reporting.

A. All permitted commercial harvesters shall report daily harvest of tautog to the commission in accordance with 4VAC20-610, specifying the number of tags used each day on forms provided by the commission. Such reports shall be submitted to the commission no later than the fifth day of the following month.

B. Harvest of tautog from beyond Virginia's tidal waters and sold to a federally permitted dealer shall be reported through the mandatory harvest reporting program as provided by subsection A of this section and is not subject to the exemption in 4VAC20-610-60 K.

4VAC20-960-60. Sanctions.

A. Any person failing to submit any report or account for any unused tags as required by this chapter shall be denied a Tautog Commercial Permit until the person complies with the requirements of 4VAC20-960-48 L and 4VAC20-960-49.

B. It shall be unlawful for any person who has been found guilty of violating any provision of this chapter to receive additional tag distributions as described in 4VAC20-960-48.

C. Any person found guilty of violating any provision of this chapter may have his permit revoked at any time upon review by the commission as provided for in § 28.2-232 of the Code of Virginia.

NOTICE: Forms used in administering the regulation have been filed by the agency. The forms are not being published; however, online users of this issue of the Virginia Register of Regulations may click on the name of a form with a hyperlink to access it. The forms are also available from the agency contact or may be viewed at the Office of the Registrar of Regulations, 900 East Main Street, 11th Floor, Richmond, Virginia 23219.

FORMS (4VAC20-960)

Mandatory Reporting Form (eff. 12/2009)

VA.R. Doc. No. R20-6221; Filed October 23, 2019, 10:56 a.m.