TRENTON – Sen. Jeff Van Drew, (D-1) of Cape May, has called on state Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner (DEP) Bob Martin to stop plans to charge residents an initial fine of as much as $3,000 for failing to register with the new free state fishing registry, the product of a bill he sponsored.
Van Drew intends to introduce legislation that would scale back the penalties for noncompliance, imposing a warning for a first offense and a much smaller fine between $20 and $30 for each subsequent offense. He added that since it is a new system, some residents who fish infrequently and others may not be aware of the new requirement to register.
“The very purpose of creating the free registry was to cut people a break,” Van Drew said. “A $300 fine for an initial offense of noncompliance is extreme, and the potential maximum fine of $3,000 is just absurd.”
Names, addresses and telephone numbers collected by the new registry are expected to be used by surveyors working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on national recreational harvest surveys. A new federal law enacted in 2007 mandated that NOAA Fisheries begin using a national directory of saltwater anglers as of 2009 in order to improve the data collection.
According to the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA), NOAA Fisheries was to have implemented a new survey program called the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) as of Jan. 1, 2009. While MRIP is now two years late in its mandated rollout, the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) is hoping that better recreational fishing data will be forthcoming in the next few years.
“This registry was spurred by an act of Congress with the intention of making it easier for third-party contractors working for the government to be able to contact actual saltwater anglers by phone, yet the state of New Jersey has turned this into a virtual weapon against its own people in an effort to punish taxpayers and coastal businesses,” said RFA Executive Director Jim Donofrio. “The only reason why we see these fines so high is as a response by the DEP against the members of our community who fought against a user fee.”
Saltwater anglers fishing in New Jersey coastal waters who’ve not already registered to fish in marine waters are encouraged to visit www.saltwaterregistry.nj.gov.