DEC still pushing saltwater registry

East Setauket, N.Y. — Three years ago, New York established a free registry for saltwater anglers in an effort to gauge fishing effort in the marine district.

That registry actually came after Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers repealed a $10 ($15 for nonresidents) saltwater fishing license, to the displeasure of many freshwater anglers who must buy a license annually – one that costs more than $10 in most cases.

Since the registry was made voluntary, however, only a fraction of the state’s saltwater anglers have chosen to sign up. And it prompted the DEC last month to issue a reminder of the mandatory requirement.

DEC officials said in a news release the free recreational marine fishing registry is designed to “ensure federal and multi-state regulations are fair to New York’s anglers”

Registration is valid for one full year (365 days) from the date registered. There is no lifetime marine fishing registration.

Anglers found without a registration may be ticketed up to $250 per violation. Several violators of saltwater fishing regulations have also seen additional fines for failure to register.

“The no-fee recreational marine fish registry is a vital tool that helps DEC better manage New York's fisheries,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. “It is imperative that all anglers sign up for the registry to help ensure fishing regulations put in place at the national and regional levels are fair, effective and based on sound science.”

The no-fee registry was established in 2011 in response the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s mandate that all recreational anglers fishing in coastal waters complete a National Saltwater Angler Registry. It was made permanent in 2013.

While participation in the free registry is low, it has been slowly improving. DEC spokesperson Lori Severino said that while 125,508 signed up in 2011, that number jumped to 291,363 in 2012 and to 367,682 last year.

To date in 2014, 150,862 saltwater anglers have signed up, according to DEC figures last month.

A 2011 national survey estimated New York has about 801,000 saltwater anglers, Severino said.

“While this number may be high, New York has used the estimates from this report to answer other questions,” she said. “Also, marine anglers fishing on a for-hire party or charter boat do not need to register since they angling participation is captured via a survey of the for-hire fishing boats.”

Information from New York’s marine registry is incorporated into the National Marine Fisheries Service database of recreational marine anglers. The database helps to efficiently obtain fishing activity information, vital information for setting quotas, size and bag limits, and fishing seasons each year. officials said.

The repeal of the $10-$15 saltwater license – via the 2011 state budget – was met with widespread criticism by sportsmen, as well as the state’s Conservation Fund Advisory Board, which pointed to the loss of revenues.

In addition to losing over $2 million in license revenues, the state also loses out on about $1.4 million annually in Federation Aid in Sportfish Restoration funding, which is tied to license sales within the state.

And the establishment of the free registry of saltwater anglers came at a price to the state. It costs DEC about $400,000 annually to maintain the free registry, officials said previously.

“If the free registry is used as proposed in this legislation, then the individuals who purchased a hunting, freshwater fishing or trapping license will essentially be paying for the marine anglers to have a ‘free’ license,” the Conservation Fund Advisory Board said in a memo in opposition to the repeal. “…and with the proposed legislation there will be no additional revenue to help fund the administration of this free license.”

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