Feds to implement federal recreational license and keep funds if Maine fails to act
As part of the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the federal law that enables NOAA Fisheries to manage ocean fish stocks, a National Saltwater Angler Registry is being created so NOAA can gather key information from saltwater sport fishermen – this is the same personal information that is provided when individuals purchase a freshwater fishing license. If the State of Maine does not create its own license/registry then NOAA will begin requiring Maine residents to purchase a saltwater fishing license through the federal government in 2011. The estimated cost for this will be $25 and none of this money will come to Maine.
By passing LD1331, Maine will be able to keep all revenues from the license sales. The proposed bill in the Maine Legislature ensures all license fees will be deposited in to a Maine Marine Recreational Fishing Conservation and Management Fund. “A saltwater angling license is the best investment Maine can make for the future of our marine sport fisheries,” said Duncan Barnes of the Coastal Conservation Association of Maine, the leading recreational voice for saltwater anglers.
Currently the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) is the agency charged with leading efforts to manage, conserve and restore migratory fish stocks. Recent cuts in DMR’s budget and the end of a mitigation fund in 2011 will have major impacts on current programs. License funds will fill projected budget gaps and allow DMR to enhance restoration efforts for striped bass and shad as well as alewife and blueback herring, keystone species that have a major influence on the quality of recreational fisheries in Maine. If funding is not restored all shad, river herring, and striped bass programs in Maine will be lost.
“Restoring and protecting habitat for anadromous fish, such as river herring and shad is critical for improving saltwater fishing,” said Tom Abello, Senior Policy Advisor for The Nature Conservancy. “River herring are a key food source for striped bass and shad restoration will create new opportunities for anglers. By establishing this license, we can help ensure that the state has the support it needs to ensure that future generations will be able to experience Maine’s outstanding wildlife, just as we have.”
Recreational fishermen play a significant role as both stewards and users of fisheries. For some species of fish, the recreational catch far outpaces the commercial harvest. This is particularly true in Maine where the striped bass is a game fish and can be harvested only by sport fishermen. In many Maine communities, fishing for stripers and saltwater angling in general is a major economic driver, affecting everything from the hospitality industry to fuel sales to outfitters and small businesses. Accurately capturing the many contributions of recreational fishermen will help to ensure that these interests are properly considered in resource allocation and other policy matters.
“Over time, the sporting community has often been the best stewards of our natural resources,” said Andrew Goode of the angler supported Atlantic Salmon Federation. “A saltwater license is a small price to pay for the benefits we derive from fishing along Maine’s coast.”