Maine Anglers May See Free Saltwater Registry in 2011
If you are planning soon to register to fish in the saltwater, you might want to wait a bit longer. At Tuesday’s hearing on saltwater registry bills, I learned that although the registry requirement enacted last year by the legislature is in place for 2011, the amended version of Senator David Trahan’s free registry bill is an “emergency” bill and, if enacted as an emergency, will wipe out the current 2011 registration requirement and replace it with a new free system.
Senator Trahan, Representatives Jon McCane and Kerri Prescott, and I (on behalf of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine) battled dozens of people from the Department of Marine Resources and some saltwater interests on this issue last year. This year, DMR officials, including the new DMR Commissioner Norm Olsen with the encouragement of Governor LePage, endorsed Trahan’s free registry bill and his second bill to allow anglers who fish from docks and piers to avoid registration requirements.
“What a difference a year makes,” exclaimed Senator Trahan as he began to give his testimony that opened the afternoon’s hearing. “Today marks what I hope is the end of three years of battle and division among stakeholders interested in Maine’s recreational saltwater fishing license. I was pleasantly surprised when at a recent meeting with Governor LePage and officials at DMR, the administration and DMR came forward with a package of elements that fleshed out my own long-standing parameters for this registry and that I now submit to you in LD 210."
“I hope this committee recognizes the historic nature of this day; although I wish we could keep the ocean free for everyone. If we adopt this bill as amended, we will have fought back a very unpopular federal registry, stiff-armed a state fee-based saltwater fishing license, and placed Maine businesses at a significant advantage over most all other coastal states. For once we can say with confidence that we really put Maine people first,” concluded Trahan.
Department of Marine Resources Commissioner Norm Olsen’s testimony was outstanding. Olsen reported that he was testifying in support of an amended version of Trahan’s bill. The elements of that amendment are listed in my previous Down East blog on the Saltwater Registry. “Our mission in these past few weeks has been to determine how we can structure this legislation, and the program, to get the best possible data with the least possible cost and imposition to the people of Maine” said Olsen. “First and foremost, we support the simplification of the registry to a basic registration requirement, without the complication of a striped bass endorsement. Further, we support the principle that the registry itself should be free. And finally, we support all efforts to minimize the number of members of our marine resources community, broadly writ, who must individually register. If there is a way for an individual to become part of the registry without any additional cost or imposition on them, we have included that option.”
Olsen explained that the amended version of Trahan’s bill would exempt from the registration requirement 1) All individuals who already purchase a freshwater fishing license and who indicate whether or not they also engaged in saltwater fishing in the prior calendar year (this covers about two-thirds of all Maine residents who saltwater fish; 2) All individuals who have already registered to saltwater fish in another state, or with the federal government (this covers about three-quarters of nonresidents who saltwater fish in Maine); 3) All individuals fishing aboard party/charter boat operations; 4)All individuals fishing with a guide – from boat or from shore; 5)All individuals fishing from a private wharf, dock, or pier; and 6)All individuals fishing from a smelt camp that they have rented; 7)Children under the age of 16.
Those who do have to register will be able to do so online, through existing agents of the Department of Inland Fishing and Wildlife, or at DMR offices. “Because there is a transaction cost associated with the use of the online system or an agent, there is necessarily either a $1 or $2 agent fee that must be collected,” reported Olsen. “We are attempting to minimize the cost to the customer to the greatest extent possible by making the registration good for two calendar years.” The hearing drew only one opponent, a strong indication that the skids are greased and, very soon, Mainers will be blessed with a saltwater angling registration system that avoids the cost and burdensome new federal requirement.