Unlikely combination of groups takes a stand for recreational angling
An impressive array of the major marine industry, recreational angling and environmental groups co-signed an October 22 letter to Dr. Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Atmospheric and Ocean Administration (NOAA), calling for reform of recreational angling data collection by the federal government.
“This is the first time in history that the five largest ocean environmental groups and the seven most significant marine recreational groups have come together to push a solution to a fisheries problem. All these groups deserve credit for seeing the significance of the issue and agreeing to work toward fixing it,” said Robert G. Hayes, general counsel for Coastal Conservation Association (CCA).
The issue of recreational angling data collection has taken on greater significance due to the requirements of the revised Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). Those revisions require an end to overfishing by a time certain through the establishment of annual catch limits and the development of enforceable accountability measures. However, current data collection efforts fail to provide the data necessary to effectively implement those requirements and the result on the water has been shortened seasons, reduced bag limits and increased size limits.
“Closing down fishery after fishery for recreational anglers was not what Congress had in mind when it reauthorized the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 2006,” said Matt Paxton, CCA federal lobbyist. “There were many critically important conservation measures included in the reauthorization of MSA, but they are all dependent on a functioning, timely data collection system to work as intended. Without it, there is great risk that calls by some sectors to gut MSA will gain traction, and no one with a long-term commitment to healthy marine resources wants that.”
The 12 groups signed on the letter agreed that recreational anglers are not at fault for exceeding fishing quotas in some fisheries and acknowledged that anglers generally adhere to bag, season and size limits. The problem lies with the tools the federal government is using to monitor recreational catch.
“One way to avoid this never-ending spiral of further restrictions is to put in place a data collection system that makes the timely collection and analysis of recreational catch data a priority so that managers are able to take action before quotas are exceeded,” the letter states.
“The groups that signed on this letter do not always see eye-to-eye, but the fact that we are able to come together on recreational data collection shows the significance of this problem and the need for a real solution,” said Patrick Murray, president of CCA.
The groups urge NOAA to develop and fund a system to manage the recreational sector in compliance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and that such an effort be included in the President’s 2011 budget.
Click here to see the Letter to Dr. Jane Lubchenco
Tags: angling data, data, Magnuson-Stevens Act, recreational data
Posted in Magnuson-Stevens Act | No Comments »
Saltwater licenses begin to hit anglers
By Chris Gatley
September 21, 2009
Is this what a picture from a New York waterway is going to look like once the Recreational Marine Fishing License is mandated in two weeks? If the nominal fee of $10 rapidly increases like the State of California’s marine license, who knows for certain?
Last Wednesday, I opened my mail to a letter requiring already licensed party and charter boat operators for the State of New York to purchase an additional license they call the Recreational Marine Fishing License. It costs $400.
Commonly thought of as a saltwater Fishing license by the angling public, my research tells me that major confusion lies on the horizon as this is clearly a vehicle by some northeast states to create extra revenues through existing saltwater fisherman.
To clear up any confusion on this topic, I called my good friend, Jim Hutchinson, Managing Director for the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA).
Hutchinson and the RFA are well-known for pulling up their sleeves and battling for the rights of the angling public. He informed me that The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration has required all states to keep a registry of saltwater anglers.
This registry is simply a phone book of saltwater anglers listing their name, contact information and states fished. The purpose of this registry is to obtain detailed data on fisheries information, to better track populations, migrations and other pertinent data through current saltwater anglers.
Currently, Delaware, Virginia, Connecticut and New York comply with the federal mandate. Or do they?
“This is a complicated matter as some states are using this registry as a means to push an actual license onto the books,” Hutchinson said. “The RFA has pending legislation in the works in states like New Jersey to create and adopt a program they call ‘FIN,’ or Fisherman Identification Number.
FIN closely resembles the Harvest Information Program (HIP) currently used by duck hunters. This serves as a reference guide on registry entrant costs. Currently, the cost for HIP is $2 per entrant.
“FIN will cost each entrant roughly $2, just like the existing HIP platform,” Hutchinson said. “Some states here in the northeast, such as Connecticut and New York, are using this registry requirement to pass a saltwater license; ultimately raising additional revenues to be used by that independent state how they see fit.”
The additional fees have hit at an inopportune time for some.
“We all knew this was coming” said Capt. Frank Masseria of Vitamin Sea Charters in Tottenville, N.Y.
“But to inform charter captains that in two weeks we must purchase a $400 license is absurd, especially since the season here in New York is over sooner than it starts.
“For instance, the state is closing our tautog season in mid-December, the heart of our season and they want $400 now.”
The State of New York requires this recreational marine fishing license starting Oct. 1. This license must be renewed on Jan. 1, 2010. In New York, recreational anglers are required to pay a nominal fee at $10 for all New York residents while charter captains must pay $400 annually.
Like Capt. Masseria, I am a charter captain and I personally thought of this registry as a license. Plus, most saltwater anglers I talk with think of this registry as a saltwater fishing license. To the angling public, these two words — registry and license — are synonymous, not really a big deal.
However, Hutchinson informs me that they are two separate issues. NOAA has asked for a registry, a phone book of names that the RFA says can be handled for $2 per entrant. It appears that individual states here in the northeast are taking this opportunity to add extra monies on top of that registry and passing this license onto all saltwater anglers.
States that are currently without any form of registration include Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Jersey. Connecticut, Delaware, Virgina and New York currently have a requirement in place. Beginning Oct. 1, all anglers who wish to fish New York saltwater waterways must possess a Recreational Marine Fishing License.
CCA New York Response on Saltwater Licenses
by Charles A. Witek
CCA New York
We read the article “Saltwater licenses begin to hit anglers” on ESPN Outdoors.com with some interest. Unfortunately, some of the information contained in it was somewhat misleading.
Federal law requires all anglers who fish in federal waters (more than 3 miles offshore) or who catch anadromous fish (those that live in salt water but spawn in freshwater rivers) after January 1, 2010 to be “registered.” A state fishing license which meets federal requirements will meet the registration requirement, while anglers who fish in states that do not offer a qualifying license will have to obtain a federal registration. In 2010, such federal registration will be free, but beginning in 2011, the federal government will be permitted to charge a fee that most believe will be somewhere between $15 and $30.
As was noted in the article, there is a difference between “registration” and a state licensing program. “Registration” only requires that certain information be collected by the state or federal government, and only of anglers participating in certain fisheries. State licensing is a more comprehensive program that limits the privilege of fishing in marine waters to license holders. To that extent, Coastal Conservation Association agrees with what the article says. However, beyond that point, the article leaves many things unsaid.
Specifically addressing the New York issue, it is true that charter and party boats will be required to purchase a $400 license. However, representatives of New York’s for-hire industry, including the Recreational Fishing Alliance, supported such vessel license in lieu of a requirement that all anglers on board hold individual licenses (in the interests of candor, please note that CCA’s New York chapter also supported the vessel license.) It was a calculated business decision, arising out of a calculation that the $400 boat license would, in the end, be a lesser cost than the combination of lost business and administrative overhead arising out of an individual licensing requirement. Thus, no for-hire vessel should complain if the state imposed a requirement that the industry asked for.
Taking a broader view, the argument that a free state registration is a viable alternative to a license and related fee is stretching reality a bit. Certainly, bills to that effect might be introduced in state legislators, either by legislators who wish to appease their constituents or those with a philosophical objection to government control of natural resources, but it is highly doubtful that even the authors of such bills expect them to be signed into law.
In today’s economic environment, when state budget deficits run into the billions of dollars, it is difficult to imagine any responsible governor who would agree to either further burden the budget with an additional budget program or take scarce resources away from state fisheries managers in order to fund a registration program that anglers are unwilling to fund for themselves.
While the article cites the “free” Hunter Information Program as a model for angler registration, it omits the facts that duck hunters are required to pay not only for a state hunting license, but for a federal Migratory Bird Stamp (which was initiated at the insistence of sportsmen), thus providing more than adequate funding which allows such “free” programs to be offered.
In fact, with the exception of salt water anglers along the northeast coast, sportsmen have long been willing to fund some of the expenses of managing the resources essential to their sport. It must be difficult for a fresh water angler to comprehend the arguments against a salt water license which, in the last analysis, allows an angler to fish all season for the price of a case of cheap beer or perhaps, for the teetotaler, three gallons of marine gas.
To suggest that New York’s $10 license fee will materially reduce the number of New York anglers is to suggest that anglers place a very low value on their sport. That’s certainly not true of CCA’s New York members, and we don’t believe that it’s true of anglers anywhere. However, if it is, and anglers are willing to abandon their sport over a mere $10 bill, then angling is facing a much bigger problem than a mere license fee.
Tags: federal registry, fishing license, new york fishing license, recreational data, saltwater license
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