State may repeal saltwater, Hudson River license

Under pressure from offshore fishermen and lawsuits brought by some coastal towns, our state lawmakers are on the brink of passing legislation that would reverse a license requirement for saltwater and Hudson River anglers.

The license - costing a paltry $10, mind you - was put in place Oct. 1, 2009, to help fund New York's hemorrhaging Conservation Fund, plus satisfy a new federal requirement to account for people using marine resources for recreational fishing.

In my mind, this license was long overdue. For years, the expense of monitoring and managing the Hudson River and coastal water was shouldered not by the users who benefited but by license sales of other sportsmen.

Now, the new license could disappear under a bill put forth by Long Island Democrat Sen. Brian Foley.

Why should we care?

Because it will undoubtedly divert our license money away from programs affecting game and inland waters.

Without the nearly $3 million in revenues generated from the new license, funding for the DEC's Marine Bureau - charged with managing Marine District and Hudson River fisheries - will need to come from the General Fund or Conservation Fund, where revenues from hunting, trapping and fresh water fishing licenses are deposited.

That would quickly eat up much of the extra money generated by our latest license fee increase - an increase supported by sportsmen's groups in the interest of keeping the Conservation Fund solvent.

To make matters worse, the saltwater license was helping meet a federal requirement used to tally the number of people partaking in recreational saltwater fishing. Without that tally, millions in federal aid is in jeopardy.

To avoid that, Foley and other downstate legislators have proposed a so-called "free registration" system to satisfy the federal requirement, under which anglers would register by computer or telephone.

But conservation officials are skeptical, saying the system would still need to be managed and registered anglers would still need to be identified, essentially mirroring the system now in place.

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