With the summer fishing season starting to wind down, Virginia and Federal officials are reminding people who have been or are planning to go saltwater fishing this year to register with the National Saltwater Angler Registry if they’re required to do so.
A new Federal law that went into effect in January says that, with a few exceptions, fishermen must register if they’re in Federal waters, or if they are targeting or might catch anadromous species–fish like stripers, shad and river herring that live in saltwater but spawn in fresh water.
Although registering is the law, officials stress that the Registry – a new tool that will help NOAA and anglers work together to conserve our oceans – is intended more as a benefit than a burden to fishermen. According to NOAA Fisheries’ Gordon Colvin, it is important for three major reasons:
First, as a national “phone book” of saltwater fishermen, the Registry will make it possible to collect better data about who’s been fishing and how often. Second, better data ultimately means better decision-making when it comes to setting regulations that affect recreational fishermen, ocean enthusiasts, coastal communities and the thousands of Virginia residents whose lives and livelihoods are connected to fishing.
Finally, the Registry is the lynchpin in a massive effort to improve the way NOAA collects and reports the information about recreational fishing that managers use to determine such things as fishing seasons, size limits and catch limits. An incomplete registry could mean substantial delays in making improvements that everyone agrees are necessary.
“When you get right down to it, registration is as important to fishermen as their bait and their tackle,” said Gordon Colvin of NOAA Fisheries. “So we’re telling everyone: Even if you’ve put away your rod and reel for the year, if you remembered to fish, remember to register.”
Registration is quick, easy and FREE in 2010. To learn more or to register, visit www.countmyfish.nooa.gov, or call 1-888-MRIP-411.
In 2011, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) will implement its own free saltwater registration program, under a new state law that went into effect July 1.
The Virginia Fisherman Identification Program will collect the information necessary to exempt saltwater anglers from having to register annually with the federal government and pay any future federal registration charges. The free, annual state registration will be in place by Jan. 1, 2011.