ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – Here’s a fish tale that’s
hard to believe: The government is giving back money.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday many saltwater anglers
who bought a 2010 or 2011 license to fish New York’s saltwater
fishing grounds will be issued a refund. That ends a fight over the
tradition of free fishing in the Atlantic Ocean that some Long
Island towns waged based on Colonial-era fishing rights.
The refunds will go to recreational fishermen and charter boat
operators who bought a Recreational Marine Fishing License for the
two fishing seasons spread over the 2010-11 state fiscal year.
Refunds will also be given to New Yorkers who purchased lifetime
Refunds of $1.3 million have already been issued for fees paid
in 2010. Refunds worth $80,000 to about 200 charter boat operators
began Friday for fees paid this year. Another $223,000 may soon be
sent to 23,000 anglers who paid the fee this year. The cost to most
anglers was up to $19 a year for a license and $10 for a mandatory
trout and salmon stamp.
The fee was added by the Legislature and former Gov. David
Paterson in 2009 when the state was required by the federal
government to develop a database of New York marine recreational
anglers to improve federal fishing surveys about the numbers and
size of fish caught. The Paterson administration proposed the fees,
along with several other fee increases, to raise revenue in the
face of mounting state deficits. It began in the 2010-11 budget
year that ended March 31.
“Some things in life still have to be free,” Cuomo, a lifelong
saltwater fisherman, said in an interview. “You wake up on a
Saturday and want to take the kids, and you couldn’t.”
The refunds will come from state fishing license revenue and
will be paid by the end of summer.
“Fishing in the ocean, Sound and Great South Bay was never
meant to be like driving through the Midtown Tunnel, with a fee to
enter,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
The issue has been big for fishermen and those in the trade from
Long Island to the mouth of the Hudson River. In 2010, seven Long
Island towns claimed fishing rights to fish free from Colonial
times and won a lawsuit against the state Department of
Environmental Conservation for fishing waters around their
Refunds apply to anyone who paid the state fees early in the
year before a new system was created to work with federal
authorities. All fishermen 16 years old and older are still
required to register through the state’s automated sporting