Feds will require sportfishing license
Yesterday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its final rule to establish a national saltwater angler registry of all marine recreational fishermen.
"Better national surveys of the more than 15 million saltwater anglers will help us demonstrate the important contributions of recreational anglers to both local economies and to the nation's," said Jim Balsiger, NOAA acting assistant administrator for NOAA's Fisheries Service in a press release. "The registry will help us gather comprehensive data to ensure sustainable fisheries built on the best available science."
A 2006 independent scientific review by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences found that NOAA needed a comprehensive list of everyone who fishes recreationally in marine waters to improve surveys of saltwater anglers used to help manage and rebuild fish stocks. The NRC recommendation became law in 2007 with the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the primary federal law that enables NOAA to manage ocean fish stocks.
The final rule requires anglers and spearfishers who fish recreationally in federal ocean waters to be included in the national saltwater angler registry by Jan. 1, 2010.
Beginning January 2009, NOAA will exempt anglers from the federal registration rule if they are licensed in states that have a system to provide complete information on their saltwater anglers to the national registry.
The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) began taking steps to implement a saltwater license last spring. In comments at that time, DMF director Paul Diodati said that a state-issued license would maintain division control over regulations and licensing fees.
DMF invited representatives of the recreational fishing community, including tackle shop owners, charter captains, and fishing organization representatives to sit on a committee designed to provide input on a state-issued license.
Ed Jerome of Edgartown, president of the Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby and a member of the committee, said a draft set of recommendations is complete. The committee asked DMF to make sure that licensing fees benefit recreational fishing access and data collection.
DMF is expected to hold public hearings next year on the regulations that would govern a state-issued saltwater fishing license.
The license is expected to cost between $15 and $25. Massachusetts already requires a license to fish in freshwater.
According to NOAA, if anglers are not licensed or registered by a state that has been exempted and want to fish in federal waters, they will be required to register with NOAA. They must also register if they fish in tidal waters for migratory fish such as striped bass and salmon, which spawn in rivers and spend their adult lives in estuaries and oceans.
Federal saltwater angler registrations would include an angler's name, date of birth, address, telephone number, and the regions where they intend to fish. The registration will be valid for one year from its date of issue. Anglers must comply with applicable state licensing requirements when fishing in state waters.
No fee will be charged in 2010. An estimated fee of $15 to $25 per angler will be charged starting in 2011.
Anglers who fish only on licensed party, charter, or guide boats would not be required to register with NOAA since these vessels are surveyed separately from angler surveys. Those who hold angler permits to fish for highly migratory species, such as tunas or swordfish, and those fishing under commercial fishing licenses will also be exempt. Anglers registered or permitted to fish in a formal state or federal subsistence fishery will also be exempt, as will anglers under 16.
To read the final registry rule and other information about the Marine Recreational Information Program, go to countmyfish.noaa.gov.