New York has halted the state’s $10 annual saltwater fishing license as part of a plan to replace it with a free registry for coastal waters.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation announced Friday that a recreational marine fishing license is no longer required in the Atlantic Ocean off Long Island and New York City, or when fishing for migratory species like striped bass on the 150 miles of the Hudson River below the Troy Dam.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers mandated the change in budget legislation. The DEC expects to have the registry in place in June.
“The fee for a saltwater fishing license was likely going to keep New Yorkers from fishing and threatened the future of small businesses that depend on free and easy access to recreational fishing across the state,” Cuomo said. “Fishing is an important recreational activity for so many New Yorkers and a critical commercial industry.”
New York claims coastal jurisdiction for three miles out. The saltwater licenses were proposed by Gov. David Paterson’s administration and adopted by the Legislature in 2009. Licenses were issued that fall, and in little more than six months, the state collected $2.57 million selling 142,085.
Environmentalists said fisherman paid about $1.7 million last year and the money is needed for marine programs. Lawmakers rescinded the fees and substituted the free registry for two years.
Jeff Jones, a consultant to the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the state will also lose about $1.4 million a year in federal matching funds. “That is money New York desperately needs for habitat protection and ocean management,” he said.
Last year, seven Long Island towns claiming rights from colonial times to fish free won a lawsuit against DEC licenses for town waters.
The state licenses, and now the free registration, are meant to bring New York in line with a federal mandate to document U.S. fisheries and help with long-term management. That federal law would impose a federal license fee for New York starting this year unless the state enacted its own measure.
Separate freshwater fishing licenses, which cost state residents $5 per day and $29 for the year, are required for New York’s lakes, rivers, streams and generally for the Hudson above the Tappan Zee.
By MICHAEL VIRTANEN,Associated Press
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.