TRENTON – Sen. Jeff Van Drew today blocked attempts amend his bill establishing a recreational saltwater fishing registry to include a fee.
Sen. Van Drew said he will continue to work with fishing and outdoor recreations groups, the Department of Environmental Protection and fellow legislators to create the saltwater fishing registry, but he remains adamantly opposed to imposition of any fee on anglers. The bill (S2194) was reviewed by the Senate Environment Committee, but was held without taking a vote.
“There’s no reason to believe that if we imposed something like a licensing fee that those monies we collect would be there to fund fishing and outdoor recreation programs,” Sen. Van Drew said. “Other states that have imposed a fee to register for recreational saltwater fishing have had problems. We can do this without charging people another fee or another tax. They’ve had enough. We should be able to say, this one time, we’re giving you a break.”
Van Drew’s bill (S2194) to require the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Marine Fisheries Council to establish a free recreational saltwater fishing registry would bring the state into compliance with a federal law, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006, which is aimed at improving the management of the nation’s fisheries.
“The purpose of my bill is to establish a registry that helps the federal government do better science, not to raise more money for the state,” he said. “This bill is about establishing a database of saltwater sport fishermen that will help the federal government do an accurate assessment of what fish are being caught, where they’re being caught and who is catching them. There’s no reason to impose a tax or fee on people to do this.”
Sen. Van Drew’s bill was supported by Jim Donofrio, Executive Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, which represents the interests of saltwater anglers, the marine, boat and tackle industries and works to ensure the long-term sustainability of the nation’s fisheries, said his organization supports Sen. Van Drew’s effort to establish a free registry.
“We all agree the registry should be free,” Donofrio said. “This should not used to fund the Division of Fish and Wildlife, it should be about getting better data to do better science and research. This is not the time to be taxing people.”
Van Drew said he’ll continue working with officials from the state’s Division of Fish and Wildlife and with groups representing anglers and related businesses to come up with a plan to set up a free registry.
In 2007, Congress reauthorized the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act in 2007. The reauthorization included requirements for revising the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey and directed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to establish a National Saltwater Angler Registry Program.
“The fisheries survey gives NOAA a better idea of who’s catching what in the oceans and saltwater bays,” Sen. Van Drew said. “The way they’ve traditionally gotten this information is by cold-calling people, asking them whether take part in saltwater fishing and then asking them about their catch. With a national registry, the agency will have a ready-made database from which to survey anglers and get a more accurate sense of the state of our fisheries”
The federal law will exempt anglers from the federal registry if their state has its own registration or licensing system. New Jersey does not currently have a saltwater licensing or registration program. Sen. Van Drew’s bill would direct the DEP Commissioner to apply to the federal National Marine Fisheries Service for “exempted state designation” so that New Jersey’s saltwater anglers do not have to participate in the national registry.
“Think of the additional tourism dollars we could attract if we let sport fishermen around the country know they can come fish New Jersey’s coastal waters without having to pay for a fishing license,” Van Drew said.
Donofrio, of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, said the state estimates there are 600,000 to 800,000 people who participate in saltwater fishing in New Jersey and generate millions of dollars in tourism spending in New Jersey.