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Hampton Roads, VA

Hampton Roads is the name of both a body of water and a metropolitan region in Southeastern Virginia, United States. Comprising the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News-Hampton, VA-NC metropolitan area, Hampton Roads is known for its large military presence, ice-free harbor, commercial and recreational fishing, shipyards, coal piers, and miles of waterfront property and beaches, all of which contribute to the diversity and stability of the region's economy. The community was named after the Earle of Southampton in the 17th century.

The body of water known as Hampton Roads is one of the world's largest natural harbors (more accurately a roadstead or "roads"). It incorporates the mouths of the Elizabeth RiverNansemond River, and James River with several smaller rivers and empties into the Chesapeake Bay near its mouth leading to the Atlantic Ocean. The area is steeped in 400 years of American history, with hundreds of historical sites and attractions that draw visitors from around the world each year. The harbor was the key to Hampton Roads' growth, both on land and in water-related activities and events.

Celebrating Fishing

Hampton celebrates the famous Caribbean pirate Blackbeard, through the Hampton Blackbeard Festival every year in June. The event features Tall Ships, re-enactments of important battles and a Grand Pirate Ball. Also featured is the annual Hooked on Hampton Fishing Tournament. The Downtown Hampton In-Water Boat Show is held at the Hampton Public Piers water front and showcases boats in and out of the water from many regional boat dealers. The Seafest, a large marine trade show, is held every September. Also in September, the town celebrates its waterfront heritage with art, entertainment and the regional seafood with the annual Hampton Bay Days festival.

Recreational Fishing

There are numerous sport fishing operations and dealers in Hampton. Most businesses offer sightseeing tours on the water in addition to chartered fishing trips. Vessels fish mostly in the Lower Chesapeake Bay and Hampton Roads, usually targeting bottom fish such as croaker, trout, bluefish, and flounder.

In 2005, the economic impact generated by marine recreational fishing in Hampton was third highest in the state, next to Virginia Beach and Newport News. The total sales/economic activity for Hampton was $53,275,000, a cumulative income of $30,639,000, and recreational fishing employed 757 people. In 2004, 20 % more marine recreational licenses were sold than in 1994.

Commercial Fishing

The top species landed in Hampton by value are sea scallops, summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass. Sea scallops values far exceeded any other species landings in Hampton. In addition, menhaden is one of Virginia’s largest commercial fisheries, with 58% of the total coast-wide harvest from 1996 to 2004 coming from the Chesapeake Bay. In 2004, commercial menhaden landings generated about $24 million for the Virginia economy and about 395 full time jobs. The diversity of species landed in Hampton is high, as is the types of gear used. These gear types include: handlines, haul seines, pound nets, sink gillnets, pots, patent tong for hard clams, as well as the popular scallop dredge and otter trawls. There is also a small amount of pelagic longlining occurring from Hampton, targeting various sharks and tuna.