Saturday, January 16, 2010
Watch Maine’s legislative process closely as the saltwater license issues continue. Don’t get caught up in the trap of a “free” registry. It’s not free and simply put should be considered a joke. Some politicians and so-called Maine sportsmen advocate organizations will attempt to trick you to believe you should follow their lead when they haven’t been involved with saltwater fishing issues in any meaningful way over the years. The politicians want votes and the organizations want members who pay annual dues. If they can convince you that a “free” state registry is good you are likely to vote for them or join their cause.
The federally mandated marine registry that started January 1, 2010 was begun to establish a database of marine anglers for the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistics Survey. To avoid having anglers pay the Federal Treasury about $25 for registering in 2011, Maine must either establish a saltwater license or provide a registration that could be free or issued at a nominal fee.
Though there is no fee involved for the National Saltwater Angler Registry in 2010, most anglers will have to register before fishing in 2010. Non-resident saltwater licenses from states with a comprehensive license (such as New York, Delaware or Florida) will serve as registration. Youngsters under 16 don’t have to register, nor do anglers fishing exclusively on party and charter boats since those are covered by a separate survey. If you fish only in state waters, and not for anadromous species such as striped bass, river herring and shad, you’re also exempt.
Those holding the Highly Migratory Species permit don’t have to register, but their passengers must do so. To register go to: countmyfish.noaa.gov and click on the Angler Registry link, or call the toll-free registration line at (888) MRIP411 (1-888-674-7411) from 4 a.m. to midnight daily.
Technically, if you are fishing salt water smelt in Maine, including at commercial smelt camps, you need to be registered on the federal system as there currently isn’t any system in Maine to cover the Federal requirements.
Maine’s Department of Marine Resources has said publicly that they have no intention of enforcing the federal mandate because they aren’t receiving money to do so. It is an unfunded mandate and the State of Maine is going broke. But, there are federal enforcement officials out there.
During 2010 there really isn’t much to be concerned about as long as you sign up for the free 2010 federal registry. Beginning January 1, 2011 you must be in compliance with the federal mandate. That means if Maine doesn’t have a saltwater license by then, you will be required to register in the federal program to be legal at a cost of $25.
Should Maine have its own saltwater fishing license? I believe it should. Reason number one is because Maine’s fee most likely will be much lower than the federal program. Most other northeast states are charging $10 to $15. Maine won’t get any of the federal funds but if it has their own state license, the money is all the state’s. Plus, when saltwater anglers are officially counted, additional federal money from the Dingell-Johnson Act funds will be distributed to Maine. Win!! Win! Maine’s Department of Marine Resources will receive new found funds badly needed to go forward with saltwater recreational programs of enforcement, striped bass enhancement programs on the Kennebec River and eventually other rivers and as time goes on more devoted efforts to other saltwater, recreational programs in Maine. Another bonus could be a full state reciprocity law so you could use Maine’s license in other states that offer reciprocity.
There are people, politicians and organizations in Maine who want to stay in the dark ages, advocating for a so called “free”, state saltwater registry vs. a state saltwater license. Even if such a “free” registry was for real, that would keep Maine in the dark ages with no money to go forward to improve the state’s saltwater fishing resources or provide badly needed law enforcement.
The so called “free” state registry has been investigated by the legislative people who determine the cost of new legislation. Guess what, they reported that the so called, proposed “free” registry would actually cost the state $300,000 to $500,000. Guess where that money would come from? Most likely out the Maine Department of Marine Resources budget (we lose again) and/or by taxing other entities such as smelt camp renters, commercial smelt fishers, tidewater guides, bait shops, boat dealers, tackle shops and any other schemes that surface that aren’t free.
Every coastal state has no choice but to have a state coastal fishing licensing system or pay for a Federal Registry - every year. It’s the law of the land. There’s no avoiding the issue. Payment begins January 1, 2011. Pay the Feds or pay the State. Maine will never see one penny of Federal Registry money. Maine will keep all money generated through a state, saltwater fishing license. A so-called “free” state registry won’t be free and won’t generate a penny of revenue for Maine. Seems like a no-brainer to me. Maine needs to elect to have a saltwater fishing license in place by January 1, 2011.
Maine’s recreational, saltwater fishing cannot improve and go forward with meaningful programs for Maine’s residents without money. For the first time, Maine can begin to fund such programs if a saltwater license is in place to raise money.