Marine Fisheries Council endorses saltwater license
Published: Thursday, September 02, 2010, 8:28 PM Updated: Thursday, September 02, 2010, 10:05 PM
A dramatic vote was taken at yesterday's monthly meeting of the Marine Fisheries Council when a motion to endorse a saltwater fishing license as a means of funding marine fisheries within the Division of Fish & Wildlife was passed unanimously.
The N.J. Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs and the Cape May Party & Charter Boat Association have been on record as supporting this concept, but the Council's motion will probably result in the required legislative action for consideration. The very mention of a saltwater license has always been poison in N.J., but with many of our state's anglers now having to buy a New York or Delaware license, the prospect of reciprocal licenses and sending money to N.J. rather than a neighboring state may make a difference. In addition, we will have to deal with the federal registry next year -- when it will no longer be free unless we have a state license.
Yet, Dr. Pat Donnelly said those concerns weren't the reason for the license proposal. Our marine fisheries are run on a budget of just $380,000, while North Carolina (a state with about as many fishermen) has an $18 million budget, about half of which comes from the recreational license. Donnelly noted that we probably could have had more liberal tautog regulations if we had the personel last year to provide the required statistics to back up our case. The same thing may apply next year with shad and river herring.
There will be a lot more about this in the weeks to come, though there isn't even a bill in the Legislature to put a license dedicated to Marine Fisheries into law. Let the debate begin!
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NJ fisheries council may endorse saltwater license
By KIRK MOORE • STAFF WRITER • September 2, 2010
GALLOWAY — The state Marine Fisheries Council took a step Thursday toward endorsing a state saltwater fishing license — but the advisory panel said it would support alternative funding proposals, too.
Pending legislation to create a "conservation lottery" and a saltwater fishing automobile license plate the alternative proposals should explicitly dedicate the proceeds to the chronically under-funded Bureau of Marine Fisheries, council members said.
Both those alternatives have been promoted by the Recreational Fishing Alliance, which is adamantly opposed to a state saltwater license. But top officials in the state Division of Fish and Wildlife and some fishing advocates support the license as a stable funding source for state fisheries management.
"New Jersey and Hawaii are the only two coastal states that don't have a saltwater fishing license," said Thomas McCloy, the division's marine fisheries chief.
Both license supporters and opponents agree New Jersey shortchanges its fisheries programs to sometimes-dangerous levels. The money that comes from seafood and recreational fishing puts New Jersey in the top tier of East Coast fishing states, right behind leaders like Massachusetts and Virginia, but industry advocates complain the
Legislature always fails to spend enough money to manage those resources.
For example, the Division of Fish and Wildlife's inability to adequately patrol shellfish waters earned a rebuke this year from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which warned that federal certification of its clams and oysters could be at risk. Now the division is scrambling to add patrol officers and new boats.
Activists with the Recreational Fishing Alliance asked the council to support both the lottery and license plate proposal. The federal saltwater angler registry that started this year is counting New Jersey anglers, and there is no legislation proposed yet to create a state license, said Adam Nowalsky, a charter boat captain who works with the alliance.
"There's a federal registry out there. We don't even know if there will be a fee yet," Nowalsky said.
It's "reasonable to think the federal government will not charge us now," added Alliance member Fran Verdi.
In a report, the council's executive committee stressed the state license as the most viable vehicle to provide a stable, sustainable funding base for fisheries management, said council member Patrick Donnelly.
His colleague Ed Goldman was unconvinced.
"The license could be worse than the first two possibilities," Goldman said, referring to the lottery and license plate sales.
Finally, council members agreed to adopt the report with new wording that kept the saltwater license idea foremost, but recognized the alternatives and noted: "The committee endorses these funding options as well."