Legislation sponsored by Senators Jeff Van Drew and Jim Beach to drastically reduce penalties associated with the new free state fishing registry – implemented as a way to collect information from recreational saltwater anglers for research purposes – was recently approved by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee.
The state implemented the free registry for recreational saltwater anglers in May, required under legislation sponsored by Senator Van Drew. The intent of the registry was to prevent anglers from having to pay a $15 federal fee for recreational saltwater fishing, which would have been assessed in New Jersey had the state not established its own free registry. As structured by the Department of Environmental Protection, individuals who fail to register, or who comply with the registration requirement but are caught fishing without the registration document in their possession, will be assessed a fine of between $300 and $3,000 for a first offense and $500 to $5,000 for subsequent offenses.
The Senators’ bill (S-2880) would scale back the penalties for noncompliance, imposing a warning for a first year the program is in place and either a warning or a $20 fine for noncompliance in subsequent years, to be assessed at the discretion of the DEP. In the event the new fee structure is not acceptable to the federal government, the bill requires the DEP to impose the minimum fines necessary to comply with requirements for state exemption from the federal program.
“The whole purpose of creating the state registry was to cut people a break, and prevent them from having to pay a $15 federal fee for fishing. Imposing an initial fine of up to $3,000 for failing to register with this free database is unacceptable,” said Senator Van Drew (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic). “Clearly, since this is a new program some residents who fish infrequently and individuals traveling from out of state are not going to be aware of the new requirement to register. It just makes sense to give them a warning. I am quite sure that once they know about the program, the possibility of getting a $20 fine for failing to comply in future years will be reason enough for them to log onto the state web site and sign up.”