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Van Drew Bill To Stave Off Federal Fishing Fee Clears Environment And Energy Committee

Federal Fee For Recreational Saltwater Fishing Will Take Effect Jan. 1 With No Action

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Jeff Van Drew to create a free state registry for saltwater recreational fishing and prevent residents from having to pay a $15 federal fishing fee poised to take effect on Jan. 1 cleared the Senate Environment and Energy Committee yesterday.

“We tax, and toll and charge for everything in New Jersey,” said Senator Van Drew, (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). “At a time when residents are struggling to pay their property taxes and other escalating costs, it would be nice to be able to say that New Jersey is still a place where someone can go out on the ocean, and they can throw a line in the water for free.”

The legislation, A-823/S-1122, was crafted in response to a federal law – the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, reauthorized in 2007 – that directed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to establish a National Saltwater Angler Registry Program. The purpose of the new registry was to create a national database to identify saltwater anglers that could be surveyed by the NOAA for research purposes. Congress also authorized the NOAA to begin charging a fee – subsequently set at $15 – to cover administration costs associated with the registry beginning in January of 2011.

New Jersey, however, has the ability to prevent the fee assessment by creating its own registry and applying for exemption from the federal program.

At yesterday’s committee hearing, officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection suggested creating a state registry and charging a $5 fee, but Senator Van Drew remained adamant that registration should be free. He has long believed the state could create an Internet registry for saltwater recreational anglers, which would require minimal cost and be hassle-free.

“The people of New Jersey have suffered enough,” said Van Drew. “For once, we have an opportunity to be innovative and to give our residents a break – and we should. It’s just the right thing to do.”

The Assembly version of the bill, A-823, sponsored by Assemblymen Nelson Albano and Matthew Milam, D-Cape May, Atlantic and Cumberland, cleared the lower house in March by a vote of 54-16-6. The Senate bill, S-1122, was approved by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee by a vote of 4-0-1.

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