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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 received final legislative approval on Thursday.
The bill (A-823) shields New Jersey from a federal law that authorized the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to charge saltwater anglers a fee to cover costs associated with a new saltwater angler registry.
It was approved 65-8-3 by the Assembly and now goes to the governor.
“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.”
“This 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.”
“We are a step closer to a commonsense law to protect saltwater anglers,” said Riley (Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “This is, quite simply, the right approach.”
“Fish conservation and management is important to our economy and environment, but charging a fee is not the way to do it,” said Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden). “This a reasonable approach and the right thing to do for our residents.”
The bill directs the Commissioner of Environmental Protection, in consultation with the Marine Fisheries Council, to establish and implement a registry program for saltwater recreational anglers.
It would be modeled on the registry program to be established by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but the bill specifies 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.
The bill directs the Commissioner of Environmental Protection to apply to the federal National Marine Fisheries Service for “exempted state designation” so that New Jersey’s saltwater anglers do not have to participate in the national registry.