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National Saltwater Angler Registry

On December 23, 2008, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries released a final rule on the National Saltwater Angler Registry. The final rule outlines the process and timeline 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. NOAA had originally proposed that registration be required beginning Jan. 1, 2009, but based on public input decided to give states another year to put in place their own data collection systems. More information and a copy of the rule is posted on www.countmyfish.noaa.gov .

CORE ISSUE
In order to make better management decisions regarding migratory fish, scientists need catch and effort data that is more accurate, precise and timely. The solution is to create a national registry, essentially a phonebook, of anglers to account for every person that goes saltwater fishing. This phone book of anglers will be used to reduce bias and improve the efficiency of catch and effort surveys. Instead of asking a random sample of coastal U.S. residents if they have gone fishing, an angler registry would allow NOAA to target surveys only to those Americans that have identified themselves as fishermen. For example, if you wanted a loaf of bread you wouldn't randomly visit a hardware store or a post office. You would go straight to a grocery store. Likewise, if you want to know how the fishing is, you ask fishermen.

WHO
With some exceptions, anglers who fish in Maryland tidal waters, and may catch anadromous (migratory) species, will need to be registered. Some approved registry exceptions are anglers under 16 years of age, anglers who fish only on licensed charter, or guide boats, and persons who hold commercial fishing licenses or permits. Commercial fishermen and licensed charter and guide captains already provide the necessary contact information to the State.

HOW
If anglers are not licensed or registered by a state that has been exempted and want to fish in federal waters, they will be required to register with NOAA. They must also register if they fish in tidal waters for migratory fish such as striped bass and salmon that spawn in rivers and spend their adult lives in estuaries and oceans. However, those who fish recreationally for these migratory species inland of tidal waters need not register, according to the final rule.
Federal saltwater angler registrations will include an angler’s name, date of birth, address, telephone number, and the regions where they intend to fish. This information will be used by NOAA to conduct surveys on fishing effort and amounts of fish caught. Once anglers have registered, they may fish anywhere in U.S. federal waters, or in tidal waters for anadromous species, regardless of the region or regions they specified in their registration. The registration will be valid for one year from its date of issue. Anglers must comply with applicable state licensing requirements when fishing in state waters.
Saltwater anglers will be able to register online or by calling a toll-free telephone number that will be publicized, and will receive a registration certificate. Anglers will need to carry this certificate (or their state license from an exempt state) and produce it to an authorized enforcement officer if requested. No fee will be charged in 2010. An estimated fee of $15 to $25 per angler will be charged starting in 2011.

KEY CHANGES TO THE PROPOSED RULE


Timing

Saltwater recreational anglers and spearfishers who are not exempt from the requirement will need to be registered to fish in Federal waters beginning January 1, 2010. This one year extension was granted at the request of numerous states that sought additional time to consider strategies for gathering and sharing the information required by the national registry.

Exemptions

Individuals who fish for salmon inland of tidal waters will not be required to register. This makes the treatment of salmon consistent with that of other anadromous species – fish that spend part of their lives in fresh water and part in salt water – like striped bass and steelhead trout.
Individuals who hold a Highly Migratory Species angling permit, or a state or federal permit to participate in a subsistence fishery program, will be exempt from registering.
Requirements for state exemptions based on participation in a regional survey of recreational fishing catch and effort were modified as follows:

o State proposals need not be submitted annually.
o The qualifying regions were changed to split the western Pacific into two regions, one for Hawaii and one for the western Pacific U.S. territories and
Commonwealths.
o It was clarified that a qualifying survey must include all of the states within a defined region.
o The provision that a survey must include use of angler registries was modified to allow for use of other approved methods to collect effort data, and to require the use of angler registries only when a telephone survey is a component of a regional survey.

Information gathering
Date of birth has been added to the information that will be gathered for the registry.
The following additional information will be included in the Memoranda of Agreement between NMFS and exempted states:

o Provisions to assure the confidentiality of individuals’ personal information.
o A definition of the tidal waters within which state license or registration holders are identified in the data submitted to NOAA Fisheries.
o A commitment by states, moving forward, to gather telephone number and date of birth information of license or registration holders. To receive an exemption,
states that already have this data will be required to share it with NOAA Fisheries.

WHAT IS DNRís ROLE

Throughout 2009,, Maryland will be engaging with fishermen to determine the most efficient way to capture the information on anglers. In addition, Maryland will be working with NOAA to evaluate all exemption options and registry needs. Currently Maryland does not collect the required contact information (anglerís phone number) with a license sale, and several fishing license exemptions (e.g. boat license and coastal fishing) do not comply with the angler registry. We must think creatively about how to capture this information. Legislation will be need to amend Maryland's license system to meet the angler registry needs.


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