Saltwater license may be on horizon

By Don Lehman

Contributing Writer

Albany — Saltwater anglers in New York will most likely be
required to buy fishing licenses in the coming years thanks to
federal legislation passed in early December.

The bills that passed the U.S. House of Representatives and
Senate, which are designed in part to allow for better tracking
recreational and charter saltwater fishing, will create federal
fishing licenses for saltwater anglers if their states do not enact
them.

“If we (New York) don’t have one, we’re going to have a federal
license,” said Robert Monacchio, chairman of the New York
Conservation Fund Advisory Board (CFAB), which manages the state’s
outdoors-related revenue.

And the problem with that is New York would lose out on the
revenue from a saltwater license if it does not create its own, he
said. CFAB has been urging the DEC to enact an all-for-one license
that would allow anglers to fish in both saltwater and freshwater,
to be sold at the current price of a freshwater license.

“What we’re talking about is one license for the entire state,”
he said.

Kimberly Chupa, a spokeswoman for the DEC, said the federal
legislation does not require New York officials to take any action
at this point, or set any deadlines for enacting saltwater angling
regulations.

She said the DEC has not decided how best to act on the new
federal laws.

“We’re still studying it at this point,” she said.

How to best regulate saltwater anglers has been debated by the
New York Legislature for three decades, said Wally John,
legislative vice president of the New York State Conservation
Council.

But he said it has been a political hot-potato on Long Island,
where state legislators were afraid to support it and hurt their
re-election chances.

“Politically on Long Island, no one wanted to touch it with a
10-foot pole,” he said. “It’s still not going to be an issue that
will be easy to resolve politically. But with a state license, at
least we will control the money and conditions at the state
level.”

In addition to a saltwater license, a license will likely be
required for parts of the lower Hudson River where there have
historically been no such requirements, John said.

He said it will likely be at least a year or two before New York
enacts a saltwater license.

“I can’t see how they’ll get their act together by 2008, but you
never know,” John said.

Monacchio said the CFAB does not see a license fee increase on
the horizon, even as the saltwater requirements are debated.

So will the federal requirement make a state license a little
more palatable to big-water anglers?

Alberto Knie, a sales assistant at Camp-Site Sport Shop in
Huntington Station (Suffolk County), said he believed most
saltwater anglers would not oppose a license if they knew the money
that was collected went toward helping fisheries.

While freshwater license fees can be used to buy access to
inland waters and support fish hatcheries, there aren’t as many
ways to show the money is going to assist ocean and bay fishing, he
said.

“Are they going to stock porgies and tuna?” Knie asked. “They
can’t.”

He said if it can be shown to anglers that the money will fund
increased enforcement and improving access and not simply go to the
state’s general fund, anglers may accept it.

The federal legislation that was recently passed is known as the
Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management
Reauthorization Act.

It allows states to exempt themselves from the federal program
if they can show to the federal government that the state registry
system is properly tracking the effects of angling.

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