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Old 12-22-2010, 06:41 AM
apmaurosr apmaurosr is offline
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Default Press Clarifies NJOA Position on Free Registry

A.P. Press Clarifies NJOA Free Registry Position

State Senate passes fee-free saltwater fishing registry bill

Recreational fishing advocates who support a $2 fee to pay for a new state saltwater fishing registry say they are keeping up their campaign, with a couple of weeks left before the Legislature can vote on final passage of a registry bill that promises to do it for free.

That proposal, passed by the state Senate Monday, calls for the state Department of Environmental Protection to find the money somewhere, without charging anglers for administrative costs. But that's dangerous in this fiscal climate, too, said Anthony Mauro Sr. of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance.

"We would not oppose a free registry," said Mauro, who said his group and several others have been incorrectly portrayed as supporting a state saltwater fishing licenses with a fee. But they don't want to see "funds that are used to run natural resources . . . ransacked" to pay for a registry, he said Tuesday.

"You may have 600,000 saltwater fishermen in New Jersey, but they may not fish every year," Mauro said. To enroll them all in a saltwater registry at a cost of $1 a head ? as some DEP staff have estimated ? would cost $600,000, "and that's the entire appropriation of the Bureau of Marine Fisheries."

If nothing else, recreational advocates who disagree on the legislation's costs agree the sheer number of fishermen who could be affected won the attention of lawmakers. The registry proposal passed the Senate unanimously.

Fishing groups say the registry debate is one symptom of a deeper problem: New Jersey's perennial underfunding of an industry that brings hundreds of millions of dollars to the state economy, and $45 million just in state sales tax on tackle and gear alone.

Meanwhile, with nearly two dozen important ocean fish species to manage, "we can barely meet our obligations" to conform to interstate and federal conservation plans, said Thomas P. Fote of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association, who represents New Jersey on management boards and councils.

The Senate version of the bill, S-1122, needs to go back for one more Assembly vote to reconcile its language with existing law, Mauro said. That will not happen until the next Assembly session in early January.

"You don't get something for nothing," Peter Grimbilas, president of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance Conservation Foundation, warned in an e-mail Tuesday to supporters. He urged them to contact Gov. Chris Christie's office to ask that the registry not be funded with money diverted from natural resource programs.

If New Jersey has no registry for 2011, anglers who fish in federal waters or for certain species such as striped bass will need to pay a $15 fee to join a national saltwater angler registry being compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA is relying chiefly on states with saltwater fishing licenses to supply the basic data for a virtual telephone book so the agency can survey recreational fishermen to ask what they are catching. It's a big step toward overhauling how NOAA estimates the annual harvests of fish. New Jersey and Hawaii are the last holdouts in not having state licenses.

The creation of a free state registry is pushed hard by the Recreational Fishing Alliance, which objected to proposals for a New Jersey fishing license.

"This legislation was not supposed to be a method of funding for the state DEP, it was specifically crafted to meet federal reporting requirements as outlined by our federal fisheries law," Jim Donofrio of the RFA said Monday after the Senate vote. Free registry advocates insist the DEP can find money to fund the program.

The issue has split recreational groups despite efforts about a year ago to get a consensus. "We thought we had most everybody together on the idea of a $2 fee," Mauro said.

It was thought the $2 would cover data handling and administrative costs for registering anglers on the same computer system that is used to register waterfowl hunters for their Harvest Information Program numbers used to collect data on how many ducks they take, Mauro said.

Kirk Moore: 732-557-5728; kmoore@app.com

The NJOA (CF) will continue to provide updates on the status of the free registry.

Anthony P. Mauro, Sr

New Jersey Outdoor Alliance
New Jersey Outdoor Alliance Conservation Foundation
New Jersey Outdoor Alliance Environmental Projects
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