The state launches today a long-awaited system that will allow New Jersey anglers to register to fish this year, officials with the state Department of Environmental Protection announced Tuesday.
Registration will be free, the result of legislation signed by Gov. Chris Christie in February that will allow those who fish saltwater in the Garden State to avoid paying a $15 federal registration fee in order to fish.
To register now, visit: saltwaterregistry.nj.gov
Under the 2006 reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the federal law which sets forth national fisheries management policies, every saltwater angler must register with either a federal or state agency so scientists will have better access to anglers for research survey purposes. States that have paid fishing licenses were covered by default under their licensing systems, but New Jersey and Hawaii—the two coastal states that do not charge anglers to wet a line in saltwater—had no registration systems in place.
State officials had the choice of creating a paid license or registration system, a free registration system, or forcing anglers to pay $15 to register under the federal government’s own system.
The legislation to create a free registry system, spearheaded by Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic) faced heavy resistance in the Senate’s environmental committee, where chairman Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex) held up the legislation to discuss the possibility of enacting a paid license in order to generate revenue for the state’s cash-strapped Division of Fish and Wildlife.
In the end, however, growing political pressure and a lack of vocal support for the paid system led legislators to relent and keep saltwater fishing free.
“I would like to thank the governor, (Department of Environmental Protection) Commissioner Bob Martin, and the Recreational Fishing Alliance for their help in making the free fishing registry a reality. This is great for fishermen, tourism and the State of New Jersey,” Van Drew said in a statement.
State officials also touted the free registry system as a benefit to all the state’s anglers—and the scientific community.
"This registry allows us to comply with a federal mandate to have a system in place to collect better data from recreational anglers and better manage fishery resources that are so important to our economy, at the same time exempting our anglers from fees and keeping saltwater fishing in New Jersey free," said Martin.
The formal opening of the registry system was praised by the New Gretna-based Recreational Fishing Alliance, one of the groups that fought potential licensing fees for New Jersey anglers.
“I'm not sure why such a big deal was made about their ability to implement an online phone book of saltwater anglers, we're just happy that the initiative has finally been completed,” said Jim Donofrio, the RFA’s founder and executive director.