Saltwater Fishing License Will Be Repealed
New York State lawmakers have reached an agreement that will repeal the state’s saltwater fishing license when the state adopts its budget sometime in the coming weeks, lawmakers said this week.
The repeal will replace the license with a mandatory registry for anglers fishing in saltwaters, which will be free for at least the first two years.
Those anglers who purchased the $150 lifetime licenses since October 2009, the first time a license was required for fishing in saltwater in the state, will receive a full refund.
State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who spearheaded the repeal effort in the Assembly, said the total budget impact of the refunds and the lost income from the sale of licenses will be less that $1 million. He said the refunds for the lifetime licenses will come from discretionary funding controlled by the State Senate.
“What programs it comes out of we don’t know yet, there’s a lot of balls in the air with the budget still,” Mr. Thiele said. “But the estimated budget impact is not very big. The fact is, they didn’t sell that many licenses because of the court case and problems getting it up and running. They had estimated it would be $2 million to $3 million a year but it hasn’t been anything like that.”
A spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation did not know how many of the lifetime licenses had been sold to date.
The state began requiring the $10 license in October 2009 to comply with a new requirement by the federal National Marine Fisheries Service that all coastal states maintain a registry of how many anglers are fishing in their marine waters. Some states, like New York, took the opportunity to implement fee-based license requirements while others, like New Jersey, turned to basic registries for a small or no fee.
New York’s license requirement met challenges before it even got out of the gate. The day before the license was to go into effect, attorneys for the Southampton and East Hampton Town Trustees and Shelter Island Town filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s authority to impose a fee requirement on their residents. The Trustees argued that colonial era bylaws governing the towns, which were ultimately adopted into the New York State constitution, guaranteed residents free access to wild game.
In December, a state judge sided with the towns and blocked the state from requiring the licenses for fishing in town-controlled waters. The victory was likely to have a minimal effect on East End fishermen, however, since a license would still have been required for fishing in the ocean, Peconic Bay or off Montauk.
Mr. Thiele said the agreement to repeal the license is an important step for the thousands of anglers on the East End.
“There aren’t a lot of victories in this budget so to put one in the ‘W’ column feels pretty good,” he said on Thursday. “This is a big issue on Long Island, especially on the East End and I think we’ve righted a mistake here.