Gone Fishin' : Saltwater fishing license looms in legislature
Legislation to create a long talked about Massachusetts recreational saltwater fishing license is expected to be filed soon. Fishermen best pay attention to the legislative process.
The best scenario would be a license that provides the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) with important economic and catch data, and a dedicated stream of funding to support recreational fishing interests.
The worst scenario would be the creation of an office where useless state employees who are immune from the realities of the private sector get shunted to live out their days, and the money generated by a license is used as a reason to further reduce the DMF operating budget.
State fisheries managers and some fishermen have talked about a license for years. But the idea never got very far.
A poorly organized 1986 effort died on Beacon Hill after intense criticism from recreational fishing interests.
More than 12 years ago Paul Diodati, then manager of the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) sport fisheries program and now its director, had the unenviable task of selling the benefits of a saltwater license to sport fishermen around the state. He encountered strong criticism from fishermen who viewed any license as an assault on their freedom to fish and a funding mechanism for an expanded marine fisheries bureaucracy. The proposal sank like a lead weight.
Then the Feds made the states a deal, as the Godfather said, that they could not refuse - you do it or we do it.
In December 2008 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."
The final rule requires anglers and spearfishers who fish recreationally in federal waters to be included in the national saltwater angler registry by Jan. 1, 2010. 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.
DMF began taking steps to implement a saltwater license last spring. In comments at that time, Paul Diodati said that a state-issued license would maintain division control over regulations and licensing fees.