NY’S Saltwater License: Where We are at the Moment

I could write tens of thousands of words on this, but I’m going to keep it short as the weather is warm and the bass are in, and any editorial might ruin that wonderful feeling spring brings to anglers.   So here’s the skinny, and I’ll try and just stick to the facts (Note: if you want more background on how this came about, see prior blogs NY’S LICENSE PROVISION FAILS IN ITS MOST IMPORTANT PURPOSE, and CCANY COMMENTS ON SW LICENSE).

There will be a salt water license, effective October 1, 2009.   Here’s what we’ll get and here’s went down: The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which was reauthorized back in 2006, requires establishment of a federal registry of all saltwater anglers.  Why? Quite simply because current system of gathering recreational fishing data sucks and we need better and more accurate data on recreational fishing.  The current system, (Marine Recreational Fishing Statistics Survey, what most of us refer to as “MRFSS”,) is effective in showing trends on a coastwide basis, but it never was meant for managing fisheries by state and by season, and that’s exactly what we’ve been asking it to do. I mean, it relies on a bunch of folks cold-calling random households in hope of finding an angler.  There are of course dock-side surveys as well, but they are really few and far between. The long and short of it is that the sample is way, way too small. Really, it’s hard to find anyone out there who believes MRFSS is a reliable way to gage recreational fishing mortality the way it’s being asked to.  A review of MRFSS a few years ago by the National Research Council (NRC) found that MRFSS system was in need of extensive revisions if it were to properly fulfill its current role in fisheries management.

Based on the NRC report, when reauthorizing Magnusson, congress wanted to address the poor data problem. So along came the Angler Registry, which could give the number-crunchers an accurate count of anglers and a list of folks from which to survey.  Now here’s the big problem with such a registry.  While there wouldn’t be a fee associated with registering until 2011, it’s likely, and almost certain that the feds would charge anglers a $25 to $35 administration fee.  And, there are no earmarks on that money, which means it would go into the black hole of the federal treasury.  In other words, we wouldn’t see a dime.  The act exempts from the registry requirement, anglers in states that have comprehensive saltwater license programs.

This was totally intentional of course.  The last thing the National Marine Fisheries Service wants to deal with is administering a recreational fishing registry. They simply don’t have the resources.   So, they really wanted to push the states into developing their own license.

So that brings us here.   If you read the blogs below, you know that the Governor included such a license in his budget proposal.  And you know that the money was not earmarked for the Marine Resources Bureau.   The good news is that thanks to the good folks at CCA among others, and our good friend in the state legislature, Rep Bob Sweeny, we were able to get that changed.   The current version has the money earmarked.  We were also able to correct some of the other shortcomings.  For example, there will be reciprocity provisions for residents of New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island, wherever they fish in state waters, rather than the locality specific language of the Governor’s bill.  And, there will be an umbrella license, costing $400 per year, for for-hire vessels, so that individual anglers on such boats will not require licenses.

Now…Here’s the bad news.  The cheaper-than-cheap folks managed to get the license fees bumped down considerably – from $19 per angler to $10.  Being that the estimated cost of administering the license is approximately $10 per angler, it’s a total wash, and the DEC Marine Resource Bureau wouldn’t get the funding they desperately need for effective fisheries law enforcement, data collection, improved programs etc.

Wait…It gets worse…It may actually end up costing the DEC money.  The idiots up in Albany saw that we were going to get some license fees this year and decided Marine Resource Bureau didn’t need the staff salaries and benefit funding that the Marine Resources Bureau gets from NY’s general-fund each year.  Such a move, even with the license fees, is estimated to result in a 1 to 1.5 million deficit that will most certainly hurt the Marine Resources Bureau.  We would not have had this problem if we had stuck to the original $19 fee in the Governor’s budget.  Doing it on the cheap, despite what some folks think, is going to hurt the DEC and anglers. From what I understand, we were warned about this possibility before the decision to go to a $10 fee was made.   Apparently, no one listened.

Now here’s some good news.   Some folks in-the-know have told me that the current fee of $10 price is an ‘introductory price” that will increase over time to achieve parity with the freshwater license, which will be going to $29.  If that’s the case, we’ll see the license fee go up over the years and we’ll see a better, stronger and more effective DEC Marine Resources Bureau. But can it survive a year or two on a severely decreased budget?  Afraid I don’t have the answer to that question.

The other good news is that we’ll finally get back our proper allocation of Wallop-Breaux money.  Wallop-Breaux legislation requires that we pay a 10% federal excise tax on anything fishing, boating or marine related we buy.  A certain percentage of those funds get allocated back to the state based on the number of licensed anglers in the state.  So, we won’t be getting back the usual small amount of money based on just the freshwater licensed anglers.    Instead we’ll get back the amount we rightfully deserve.  We’ll also, I’m sure, get more clout.   If we’re footing a large portion of the DEC tab they’ll have an interest in providing services and adequately protecting fisheries so anglers will continue to buy licenses. We’ll also have some legislators who will be very interested to know how many anglers are in their district.

Despite the fact that we made a bad decision on the amount of the license, coupled with the fact that the Marine Resources Bureau got screwed by Albany, I still believe this license is a good thing.   I could be deathly wrong though.  The Marine Resource Bureau needs to survive these next couple of years with losing a good portion of their staff.  Let’s hope they can swing it.


After obtaining an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Loyola College in Maryland, Captain John McMurray served in the US Coast Guard for four years as a small-boat coxswain and marine-fisheries law enforcement officer. He was then recruited to become the first Executive Director of the Coastal Conservation Association New York. He is currently the Director of Grants Programs at the Norcross Wildlife Foundation in New York. He is the owner and primary operator of “One More Cast” Charters. John is a well known and well published outdoor writer, specializing in fisheries conservation issues. In 2006 John was awarded the Coastal Conservation Association New York Friend of Fisheries Conservation Award.

Posted in Articles, Conservation
6 comments on “NY’S Saltwater License: Where We are at the Moment
  1. avatar capt. brian moran says:

    thanks for your point s on the licence issue,, the new format on this site for me any way is sort of like a new haircut ,,ill get used to it..please keep up the good work ,, this is still in development –site— will you have tide ,,weather info links ,,any fishing news etc,,, and if your in the port washington area you welcome to come out and wet some feathers,,,
    thanx again brian moran,featherbayflyfishing…

  2. avatar admin says:

    We definitely will. First thing is to get the fishing reports going for the season. Then we need to get the rest of the articles in, etc.

    The new fishing report pages will have tide, weather, buoy reports for offshore, surf reports, wind reports and anything else useful we can think of. NY reports start next week…send Andrew Derr a report!

  3. avatar Am I Missing Something here? says:

    I don’t really think you thought this through? First you say that the money went into a dedicated fund, yet the state took back more? So what is the differencee if it went into the general fund, you’re still getting nothing for the license money. In fact you’re now paying for a license and getting less then what you got before. It’s all symantics my friend, and please don’t balme it on the “:cheapos” it’s your fine legislators that screwed you.

  4. Yes, you are indeed missing something. The DEC was prepared for the state cutback, and that’s why they recommended $19 instead of $10. I do blame the “cheapos” as we were all warned that this was likely to happen and that we needed that extra 9 dollars per anlger to account for this. Regardless, the fee will likely get racheted up until it reaches pairty with the freshwater license. It’s just a matter of whether or not DEC can survive a year or two on the budget they currently have.

  5. avatar joe says:

    Nonsense! Random fractional samples are above statistical reproach . Stock assessment is not just based on a creel census, it involves several types of sampling . This is another example of a federal government run amok . Keep voting for socialists and you’ll have a million lazy , shiftless, do nothing DEC employees and not a single fish. More condo’s dumping more sewage into our waters and lots more regulations and rules from the federal government. Vote conservative and shrink the federal government down or more of the same .

  6. avatar Jimmy Chen says:

    Make no sense on Salt water license fee

    Did they put any salt water fish there? or plan to?

    California put King salmon into SF bays, that was why california state requires salt water
    fishing license.

    Why don’t they charge Gulf, or Tennis license fee as well….

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