RFA Fighting Saltwater License Again

Just when the Recreational Fishing Alliance appeared to be bootstrapping itself toward respectability by voicing opposition to the proposed opening of the EEZ to striper exploitation it starts carping about saltwater licenses again. See my piece on saltwater licenses above. CONGRESSMAN PALLONE TAKES A STAND AGAINST SALTWATER FISHING LICENSE The National Marine Fisheries Service made a strong pitch for a saltwater fishing license at a House Resources Committee hearing on Wednesday, May 3rd, and got strenuous opposition from Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J. William Hogarth, director of NMFS, told the committee that the license would allow the government to count anglers. Pallone, a senior member of the committee, questioned the value of this knowledge. Pallone has long pointed out that accurate data on landings is the vital need of fisheries management, not the names of the participants compiled through an unnecessary tax. Hogarth admitted, when pressed by Pallone, that a mandatory registration system with a charge of $20 to $25 annually would not produce a lot of landings information or solid basis for a total allowable catch. "I want to emphasize that recreational anglers in my district and across New Jersey are strongly opposed to a saltwater license that includes a fee," Pallone said. Hogarth also admitted that the current Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey system of recreational data collection was designed to observe long-term trends and was not intended for use in making stock allocation decisions. This may be so, but it does not restrain either the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council or the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, or, for that matter, NMFS itself, from using the numbers as hard data. A recent report by the National Research Council found that "users" concerns about the use of MRFSS in fishery management are justified," and that MRFSS "should be completely redesigned." Pallone pressed Hogarth further on the use of mandatory total allowable catch (TAC) limits for the recreational sector. He asked about the use of MRFSS data, if Congress were to legislate the use of such TAC limits. "Without more accurate recreational catch data than what we get from MRFSS, how can you justify requiring a hard TAC for recreational fishermen?" Pallone asked. "It would be difficult," Hogarth replied. He also told Pallone that NMFS is committed to developing a new recreational data collection system to replace MRFSS. Pallone's questions came during a hearing in the House Resources Committee on reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management Act, which regulates fishing in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) from three to 200 miles offshore. James A. Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, said he has been in Washington talking to congressmen about the problems with a national saltwater fishing license. "I'm getting good response," he said. "Even congressmen from states that already have a saltwater fishing license appreciate the concerns anglers have with a license to fish in saltwater." Donofrio is surprised that the current Bush adminstration is not anti-saltwater fishing license, as his father, President George H. Bush, was. "I remember when the first President Bush came to New Jersey — to Belmar — and expressed his opposition to a saltwater license," Donofrio said.