Virginia Marine Police will begin enforcing the Virginia Fisherman Identification Program registration requirement after the Fourth of July weekend.
The new registration program went into effect on Jan. 1, and requires adults who fishes in Virginia’s saltwaters, or for saltwater species in tidal freshwater, to register with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission if they are exempt from buying a saltwater fishing license. Registration is quick, easy and free.
Anglers who buy a Virginia saltwater fishing license of any type are automatically registered.
So far, only 27,600 anglers have registered this year. The National Marine Fisheries Service estimates 750,000 people a year fish in Virginia’s saltwaters.
VMRC has taken many steps to inform anglers of the registration requirements, including the expenditure of almost $40,000 of a federal grant on full-page color ads in a dozen different newspapers and fishing magazines, as well as placement of posters at public boat ramps.
“It’s time for anglers to sign up or risk getting a ticket” said Virginia Marine Police Chief Rick Lauderman.
Anglers who fail to register if required to do so could be charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor, which carries a fine up to $500 at the discretion of the judge.
Virginia anglers who must register each year with the Fisherman Identification Program include: Those who fish on a boat licensed to cover all anglers; from a commercial pier or private property; who are age 65 and older; and those who fish in tidal freshwater for anadromous species such as striped bass, shad or other marine species.
The intent of the program is to create a Virginia-wide “phone book” of saltwater anglers. Fishery managers will know who is fishing if a fishing license is purchased, but have no way of knowing who is fishing if an angler doesn’t need to buy a license. Registering those license-exempt anglers is the only way to create a comprehensive Virginia “phone book” of saltwater anglers.
This “phone book” will be given to the National Marine Fisheries Service in order to improve recreational fishing effort surveys (which will benefit species management and sustainable fisheries) and to continue to exempt anglers from having to sign up directly with the National Saltwater Angler Registry and pay an annual $15 federal registration fee.
“We need Virginia anglers who fish legally without a license to register with us or Virginia’s exemption from the national registry will be at risk,’’ said VMRC Fisheries Chief Jack Travelstead. “If we lose that exemption, that would mean all adult anglers would have to register with the federal government and pay a $15 a year registration fee. I don’t think anyone wants that to happen.”
Anglers may register annually in the Virginia Fisherman Identification Program by going to www.mrc.virginia.gov/FIP now or by calling toll-free 800-723-2728 at any time of the day, any day of the week.
Anglers with a valid Virginia saltwater fishing license or a Potomac River Fisheries Sport Fishing License do not have to register with the state FIP. Their contact information will be collected when they buy a license.
Anglers under the age of 16 also are exempt from registering. Also exempt from registration are paying customers of licensed charter boats or head boats.