Senator Jeff Van Drew called on Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin to halt plans to charge residents an initial civil penalty of up to $3,000 for failing to register with the new free state fishing registry implemented under legislation he sponsored.
In a letter sent to the commissioner, Senator Van Drew said the purpose of the free registry created under his bill was to prevent residents from having to pay a $15 fee to register with a federal program.
“The very purpose of creating the free registry was to cut people a break,” wrote Senator Van Drew (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic). “And since it is a new system, it is expected that residents who fish infrequently and individuals traveling from out of state may not be aware of the new requirement to register. A $300 fine for an initial offense of noncompliance is extreme, and the potential maximum fine of $3,000 is just absurd.”
The Senator said he intends to introduce legislation immediately to scale back the penalties for noncompliance, imposing a warning for a first offense and a $20 fine for each subsequent offense. He requested the DEP impose a moratorium on fine assessments until the Legislation is signed.
Van Drew sponsored the registry bill (S-1122) in response to a federal mandate requiring all saltwater recreational anglers to register with a National Saltwater Angler Registry Program. The purpose of the new registry was to create a national database to identify saltwater anglers that could be surveyed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for research purposes. Congress authorized the NOAA to begin charging recreational anglers a fee – subsequently set at $15 – to cover administration costs, but gave states the option of preventing the fee assessment by creating their own registry. The legislation was signed in February. The free registry went online this week.