Maine Launches Saltwater Registry
RFA Applauds New Bill Which Does Away With Fee-Based License....
(July 11, 2011) This past Friday, Maine Governor Paul LePage signed into law LD 210, "An Act Regarding the Saltwater Recreational Fishing Registry," which simplifies the requirements for both resident and non-resident anglers who wish to fish in the state's coastal waters. The new registry, effective immediately, replaces Maine's fee-based license program that was implemented this past January 1st, and meets the standards established by the federal government to exempt anglers from the federal registry.
"This has been a long time in coming, but we're very pleased with the legislature's and the governor's support," said Capt. Barry Gibson, New England Director for the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA). "We have been working on this for over three years, and even though a fee-based program was indeed passed last year, we decided we wouldn't give up."
The bill, sponsored by state Senator David Trahan (R-20), contains several unique provisions. One allows owners of private docks and piers (such as waterfront hotels and restaurants) to obtain a free "umbrella" operator's license that will cover all anglers wishing to fish from that property. Charter and party boat operators, as well as smelt camp owners, can get a similar free permit. Another provision allows anyone who purchases a Maine freshwater fishing license to sign up for the saltwater registry at the same time at no additional charge.
Maine residents can fish in salt water on Memorial Day weekend, July 4th, and Labor Day weekend without registering, and non-residents who are licensed to fish in salt water in any other state, or with the federal registry, will not need to register in Maine.
"The support of Barry Gibson and the RFA was essential in getting this new legislation passed," said Sen. Trahan. "Barry helped craft the language in LD 210, testified in front of the Marine Resources Committee a number of times in support of the bill, and spread the word via letters to the editor and articles in the media. Having the backing of a national organization such as the RFA gave us the additional horsepower we needed to make this happen."
Pete Moumouras of Saco Bay Tackle in Saco, the state's largest saltwater bait and tackle shop, felt the new registry would be good for his business. "It's a huge relief to get rid of that $15 non-resident fee," he explained. "All that did was discourage visitors from going fishing. Now we can advertise that Maine saltwater fishing is virtually free through the registry, and for folks who are licensed elsewhere. It's a big pull for the state."
Tim Brown of Brown's Wharf, a popular hotel/restaurant/marina complex in Boothbay Harbor, was pleased with the innovative private dock provision. "To force our guests to go out and register individually just to catch a few mackerel from the dock is cumbersome and time-consuming," he said. "The new operator's permit does away with that, so guests won't even have to think about signing up. They can just go have fun. Senator Trahan deserves a lot of credit for including this option."
Although the $5 resident and $15 non-resident fees to target striped bass and other anadromous fish associated with the previous license program have been eliminated, as have the $50 charter/party operator and smelt camp fees, the minimal $1 or $2 agent fees (depending on how anglers register) must by law remain in effect.
Those wishing to register can do so now at www.maine.gov/saltwater. Registration will also be available through electronic agents of Maine's Dept. of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife as well as tackle shops and town offices.
"The new law achieves my goal of minimizing the burden on our residents and our hundreds of thousands of visitors who want to fish recreationally in salt water," remarked Governor LePage.
RFA's Gibson agreed.
"Given the economy and the importance of tourism here in Maine, we need to try and grow our saltwater sport fishery," he said. "Replacing the fee-based license scheme with the new registry will certainly go a long way towards achieving that."
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