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 received final approval today in the Assembly, sending it to desk of Governor Chris Christie.
“New Jerseyans are already over-burdened with taxes and fees,” said Senator Van Drew, (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). “At a time when residents are struggling to pay their property taxes, their electric bills and other household costs, it will be nice to be able to say New Jersey is still a place where people can go out on the ocean, and they can throw a line in the water for free.”
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 a fee – subsequently set at $15 – to cover administration costs associated with the registry beginning in January of 2011.
New Jersey, however, has 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 have suggested creating a state registry and charging a $5 fee, but Senator Van Drew has 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.
“Just because the federal government has given us the option of charging a fee to fish, it doesn’t mean we should,” said Senator Van Drew. “Especially in this economy, we should be doing everything we can to relieve the financial burden on residents – we shouldn’t be piling it on. This bill will direct the state to create a free, online registry, and give us an opportunity to opt out of the federal program, saving our residents from having to pay a fee just to enjoy a day of fishing at the beach.”
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 today by a vote of 65-8-3.