Executive Director of Recreational Fishing Alliance joins in call for no-fee registry
TRENTON – Sen. Jeff Van Drew said the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Marine Fisheries Council should establish a free recreational saltwater fishing registry to comply with federal law aimed at improving the management of the nation’s fisheries.
Sen. Van Drew (D-Cape May, Atlantic and Cumberland) is the prime sponsor of a bill (S2194) that would require the state to implement a saltwater fishing registry pursuant to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006. His bill differs from similar proposed legislation in that registration would be free.
“The people of New Jersey have been taxed and tolled and fee’d to death,” Sen. Van Drew said. “Enough is enough. They can’t tolerate any more fees or taxes. Too many people are working too hard – some of them holding multiple jobs – just to make ends meet. The least we can do is give them a chance to do a little saltwater fishing without having to worry about paying another fee for the privilege.”
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 would really like to see the state do what Senator Van Drew wants to do,” Donofrio said. “We all agree the registry should be free. 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.”
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. “Believe it or not, 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. This kind of information is vital to maintaining saltwater fishing stocks, which helps our commercial fishing industry, recreational anglers and our tourism industry.”
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.
“My bill would establish the registry that NOAA is looking for, and would do so without burdening New Jerseyans with yet another fee,” Sen. Van Drew said. “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.”
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.
“We generate hundreds of millions in tourism dollars,” he said. “We should not be taxed on this. We’re taxed enough. We agree with Senator Van Drew that the registry should be free.”
Sen. Van Drew said he’s been approached about merging his legislation with other versions that include a fee for signing up for the recreational saltwater fishing registry.
“I want to make it clear: I’m not going to modify my bill to include any fee at all, not even a $2 fee,” he said. “People want a break. This bill is good for our recreational anglers and will be something we can boast about in our tourism advertising. I’m asking my colleagues in the Legislature to join with me in supporting this bill to set up a free recreational saltwater fishing registry.”