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(TRENTON) — Legislation Assembly Democrats Nelson Albano, Matt Milam, Celeste Riley and Paul Moriarty sponsored to ensure free recreational saltwater fishing continues in New Jersey was signed into law Tuesday.

The new law (formerly A-823) shields New Jersey from a federal law that authorized the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to charge saltwater anglers a fee to cover costs associated with a new saltwater angler registry.

“We should not be charging people to fish the open sea,” said Albano (D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland). “Fish conservation and management is important thing, but we don’t need to be charging saltwater fisherman to accomplish it.”

“Fishing the ocean has always been free in New Jersey and should remain that way forever,” said Milam (D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland). “We all favor conservation and management, but we don’t need to impose a fee upon our anglers to get that job done.”

“This is a commonsense law to protect saltwater anglers,” said Riley (Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “Quite simply, this is the right approach.”

“Fish conservation and management is important to our economy and environment, but charging a fee was not the way to do it,” said Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden). “This is a reasonable approach and the right thing to do for our residents.”

The law directs the Commissioner of Environmental Protection, in consultation with the Marine Fisheries Council, to establish and implement a registry program for saltwater recreational anglers.

The state registry will be modeled on the registry program to be established by the NOAA, with a specific clause that New Jersey cannot charge a fee for registration under this program.

In 2007, Congress reauthorized a fishery conservation and management act and directed NOAA to establish a National Saltwater Angler Registry Program.

Congress also authorized NOAA to collect a $15 annual fee to cover administrative costs associated with this registry, though the National Saltwater Angler Registry will exempt anglers from the federal registry if their state has its own registration system.

Under the law, the Commissioner of Environmental Protection must apply to the federal National Marine Fisheries Service for “exempted state designation” so that New Jersey’s saltwater anglers do not have to participate or pay for the national registry.