On December 20, 2010 the full Senate is scheduled to vote on bill S1122 (free saltwater registry.) The bill is sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Beck (R) and Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D), and would require the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to administer a free saltwater registry program to comply with the federal mandate for data collection. The bill was approved 4-0-1 in the Senate Environment and Energy Committee last week.
"I'm sure that most anglers are ecstatic about the prospect of a free saltwater registry, and who wouldn't be?" asked Anthony P. Mauro, Sr, Chairman, New Jersey Outdoor Alliance (CF). He continued, "But our due diligence on this bill leaves us short on answers. We've yet to be told where the funds will come from to pay for the free registry. Frankly speaking, we also have some unease about whether the bill best accomplishes what it is designed to do."
The reason some anglers are concerned with knowing the source for funding the implementation and management of the registry is that the projected cost of $600,000 is equal to the entire 2011 appropriation for the Bureau of Marine Fisheries (BMF). The cost of the registry was not budgeted and could exhaust the entire BMF appropriation.
In spite of the above uncertainties the bill is expected to pass in the Senate and head to the Governor for consideration. When pressed for his opinion on whether his concerns are justified Mauro said, "The NJ Outdoor Alliance
has helped to give voice to New Jersey's 600,000 saltwater anglers and this tremendously large bloc of constituents creates significant pressure to appease the angling community from both inside and outside of the political realm. The bill is like a hot potato flipping to the Governor to hold. I'm concerned because we haven't been given the finer details and it's the details that always tell the whole story."
Governor Christie has the option of signing the bill. He could also sign it and announce a source of funding at that time. The Governor can choose to conditionally veto the bill and return it to the legislature for amendment(s) or he could exercise a veto.
The NJ Outdoor Alliance
(CF) council had reached a consensus of a $2.00 saltwater registry to cover the projected $600,000 cost. The BMF budget has already been slashed to such a degree that there is concern by conservation organizations as to whether the bureau will be able to adequately adhere to federal requirements for fisheries research and management. Ultimately, a weakened BMF could contribute to fishery closures.
The 23 organizations that comprise the NJ Outdoor Alliance
(CF) council agree in theory with the free registry. They were represented in Trenton by Mauro to testify before the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. It was planned for Mauro to receive assurances about a funding source and get answers about the viability of the bill from the Senate committee. However, a vote was taken on the bill without public comments.
Mauro emphasized, "New Jersey has a looming deficit of $10.7 billion for 2011 and we feel it is in the best interests of anglers to know upfront whether monies currently budgeted for natural resource management will be cannibalized. Also, with a $15.00 Federal registry fee to be imposed in a few weeks it could be very problematic should the bill need amending." Mauro continued, "We are not against a free saltwater registry, we are simply proceeding with caution and trying to gain a better understanding of all the variables. As I've said before our priorities are the integrity of our natural resources and the interests of the angling community."
The NJ Outdoor Alliance
(CF) will continue to provide updates on the bill.
Anthony P. Mauro, Sr
New Jersey Outdoor Alliance
New Jersey Outdoor Alliance Conservation Foundation
New Jersey Outdoor Alliance Environmental Projects
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