- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 2, 2008

There has been a buzz on both coasts about the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service wanting a rule that would call for federal registration of all sport anglers who fish in U.S.-controlled ocean waters by the end of 2008. During the first two years of such registrations there would be no charge, but starting in 2011 it might cost $15 to $25 annually for anglers older than 16. Native Americans would be exempt.

The rule also would call for registration by everyone who fishes for anadromous species anywhere. In our immediate area, that includes striped bass and shad, but in other coastal states salmon would be added to the list. Anadromous species come into rivers and inland bays to spawn, then depart to live in the ocean and various estuaries, such as the Chesapeake Bay.

The whole deal came down when the National Academy of Science National Research Council said it needed to establish a national database of saltwater anglers and the NOAA said it wanted to improve the “quality and accuracy of data on marine recreational fishing and catches.” NOAA added that such a saltwater angler registry will help measure the economic effects of recreational fishing on the national and local economies.

Should Maryland and Virginia fishermen be up in arms about yet another federal bureaucracy getting involved in their lives and reaching into their wallets? Probably not. Anglers can be exempted from registration if they already carry a saltwater fishing license or registration issued by their home state. That is true of Maryland and Virginia, and both states participate in surveys of marine recreational fishing, which is a requirement to qualify for a registration exemption. Of course, somebody needs to make sure the states apply for exemptions.

Meanwhile, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Maine, Rhode Island and Hawaii anglers won’t be exempt. They will have to register and eventually fork over cold cash for the “privilege” of being counted. However, if you fish the ocean waters on a charter fishing vessel or a licensed guide boat, you would not need to be registered because the operators of such businesses already participate in fishing surveys. The same goes for commercial fishermen who are properly licensed.

To read the proposed rule, go to www.countmyfish.noaa.gov. NOAA wants you to comment on this, so do it before Aug. 12. Comments can be submitted at regulations.gov.

- A party will be held along the Shenandoah River on July 19, with the Shenandoah Riverkeeper, Jeff Kelble, as host at the Bentonville Campground. Nationally known smallmouth bass fishing guides are sponsoring the event, which includes fishing, canoeing, a pig roast and bluegrass music. For more information, email jeff@shenandoahriverkeeper.org or call 540/837-1479.


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