Legislation sponsored by Senator Jeff Van Drew to create a free state registry for saltwater recreational fishing and prevent residents from having to pay a $15 federal fishing fee was signed into law today by Governor Chris Christie.
“This law will send a clear message to our residents and to tourists that we are beginning to do business differently here in New Jersey – that while other states are charging, recreational fishing in the Garden State will be free,” said Senator Van Drew (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland).
The legislation, A-823/S-1122, was crafted in response to a federal law – the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, reauthorized in 2007 – that directed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to establish 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 NOAA for research purposes. Congress also authorized the NOAA to begin charging recreational anglers a fee – subsequently set at $15 – to cover administration costs associated with the registry beginning in January of 2011.
New Jersey, however, like all states, was given the ability to prevent the fee assessment by creating its own registry and applying for exemption from the federal program. State Department of Environmental Protection officials had suggested creating a state registry and charging a $5 fee, but Senator Van Drew remained adamant that registration should be free. He has long believed the state could create an Internet registry for saltwater recreational anglers, which would require minimal cost and be hassle-free.
The legislation, signed today, specifically directs the state DEP to create a free fishing registry that complies with the federal program. Upon establishment of the registry, it directs the DEP commissioner to apply to the National Marine Fisheries Service of the NOAA for exemption from the federal registration requirements.
“New Jerseyans are already over-burdened with high taxes, tolls and fees,” said Senator Van Drew. “At a time when residents are struggling to pay their property taxes and other escalating costs, it will be nice to be able to say that New Jersey is still a place where someone can go out on the ocean, and throw a line in the water for free.”
The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 36-0 in December. The Assembly version of the bill, A-823, sponsored by Assemblymen Nelson Albano and Matthew Milam, D-Cape May, Atlantic and Cumberland, cleared the lower house in January by a vote of 66-7-3.