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Wednesday, February 20 , 2019, 8:41 pm | Fair 48º


Captain’s Log: NOAA Proposes Rule to Require Saltwater Angler Registration

Registry aimed at improving quality of recreational fishing data.

Saltwater anglers all around the country will be counted by a proposed federal angler registry. (Capt. David Bacon photo)

The NOAA Fisheries Service is notifying saltwater anglers of an impending requirement to register with the federal government. Following is a recent release from NOAA:

On June 11, NOAA Fisheries released a proposed rule on the National Saltwater Angler Registry, a requirement of the reauthorized Magnuson-Stevens Act and an important component of the broader initiative to improve the quality of recreational fishing data.

Capt. David Bacon

The national registry of saltwater anglers is the key to closing a major gap in information on recreational fishing. This “phone book” will improve the efficiency and accuracy of our surveys. It will also help NOAA demonstrate the economic value of saltwater recreational fishing on local and national economies and allow us get a more accurate picture of the level of participation by the American public in saltwater fishing.

Beginning in January, recreational anglers who fish in federal waters are required to be registered each year with NOAA Fisheries Service. The proposed rule also requires registration by those who may catch anadromous species such as salmon, striped bass and shad that spawn in rivers and streams and spend their adult lives in estuaries and the ocean. Registration will be free for the first two years.

The proposed rule outlines the process NOAA Fisheries will use for registering saltwater recreational anglers. It also addresses the qualifications and procedures for exempting states and their anglers from the federal registration requirement.

Anglers may be exempt from federal registration if they fish in a state that already has a program in place to account for all of its saltwater anglers. The proposed rule outlines possible exemptions for states that have a comprehensive saltwater fishing license or a regional angler survey program approved by NOAA Fisheries. In addition, anglers fishing from licensed for-hire vessels and anglers under the age of 16 are also exempt.

Next Steps

NOAA is accepting public comments on the proposed rule until Aug. 11. A final rule based on those comments is expected in November with the requirement going into effect Jan. 1.

Click here for more information.

Captain’s thoughts: California will probably become an exempted state because we have a robust licensing system and we will no doubt be willing to adapt ours as needed to fulfill the specifications of the rule. Californians care deeply about our fisheries and, consequently, we have done the hard work of developing methodologies to learn how many people fish, what they catch and where. We are the good guys.

Some states do not have a requirement for saltwater anglers to buy a license. Without at least a registration process, we cannot accurately determine how much of a socioeconomic impact the saltwater angling community is responsible for. This system will allow economists to better gauge and predict the effects of potential fisheries regulations. As much as we do not like yet another reason to register with the government, there is substantially good reason here.

The only thing that bugs me about this is that when fees are levied in the future (estimated $15-$25 by 2011), that money is earmarked to go to the U.S. Treasury, rather than to NOAA Fisheries. Now there is something in the proposed rule worth commenting on.

Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a new nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need.


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