Science shows us that biodiversity loss and climate change are contributing to more frequent disease outbreaks. As forests and wetlands disappear, pathogens like Ebola, Zika and coronavirus jump more easily from animals to humans. Virginia recognizes the interconnected nature of our environment, climate change, and human health. This is why Governor Northam is committed to the protection of Virginia’s unique biodiversity and natural habitats.
Virginia is a world class outdoor recreation destination, and the birds using the Atlantic Flyway that stop along our shores are a big reason why. Protecting wildlife resources is challenging under the best of circumstances and has become increasingly more difficult as federal partners weaken longstanding policies. Virginia is stepping up and working together through interagency efforts, under the leadership of both the Secretary of Transportation and the Secretary of Natural Resources to ensure that infrastructure projects are successfully built in harmony with wildlife conservation and the Commonwealth’s environmental protections.
Governor Ralph Northam announced a comprehensive approach to address the loss of habitat for colonial nesting birds on the South Island of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT), and create a backstop against the federal government’s failure to protect migratory birds. For additional information about the Commonwealth’s plan to protect migratory birds, click here.
Department of Wildlife Management
In 2020, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) was renamed the Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR). The new name reflects the wide range of wildlife conservation responsibilities and opportunities that our agency has, from hunting and fishing, to wildlife watching, public lands, boating, and outdoor recreation.
Virginia’s environment and economy benefit from improved water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries, Potomac River tributaries, and Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Underwater grasses are more abundant; recreational enjoyment is on the rise; waterfront properties boost local government coffers; and the oyster industry is experiencing substantial regrowth.
Virginia is well positioned to promote further, sustainable growth of its clam and oyster economy by virtue of the extensive work being done to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution across the Commonwealth and by local governments and federal partners, private businesses, and many farmers.
In 2019 Omega Protein caught more menhaden in Virginia waters than allowed by the ASMFC’s Bay cap, leading the U.S. Commerce Department to call for a moratorium on Virginia’s menhaden fishery if the Commonwealth is not in compliance by June 17, 2020. Governor Northam signed 2020 legislation that transferred management of the fishery from the General Assembly to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. In April of 2020, VMRC updated a harvest cap on menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay that brought Virginia into compliance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) menhaden management plan adopted in 2017.
Clam and Oyster Aquaculture Work Group
In August 2018, Secretary Strickler convened the Aquaculture Work Group to develop consensus-based recommendations to promote the sustainable growth of Virginia’s clam and oyster aquaculture industries. The Work Group’s efforts focused on finding solutions to conflicts between shellfish growers and other uses, namely waterfront property owners, boaters and local governments. The Work Group will also explore how best to balance the shellfish economy with continued growth of underwater grasses. Read more here.