FAQ Questions on the Saltwater Registry
By Anthony P Mauro, Sr (c) 2011
USA –-(Ammoland.com)- Answering questions on the Free Saltwater Registry on behalf of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance Conservation Foundation:
Q. I've heard conflicting information as to the position of the NJOA CF on the Free Saltwater Registry. Would you explain the organization's position?
A. Although the NJOA CF originally supported a $2.00 administrative fee to cover the approximately $600,000 in costs needed to manage and implement the registry, there is no such bill under consideration. The only bill before the Governor provides for a free registry. Ever since the bill reached the Governor we've stated that we support the bill but we have recommended that people ask the Governor to designate funding to pay for the free registry from outside of monies currently spent on natural resources.
Q. Why are you recommending that monies be designated from outside of our natural resource programs?
A. The idea of a free saltwater registry, as we understand it, is based on the fact that anglers are paying too many taxes with only a tiny fraction of the money being returned to our fishing resources.
If the Governor signs a free saltwater registry into law but then instructs that the money be taken from the current Bureau of Marine Fisheries budget (the entity that manages our fishery resources), we would be acting to defeat the purpose of seeking a free registry. In this scenario we'd be paying for the registry ourselves, while causing further erosion of the programs provided by BMF.
In other words, we'd look unwise for demanding a “free” saltwater registry based on the argument that we don't believe we have enough tax dollars returned to our natural resource programs – but then allow the Governor to take the cost of implementing and managing a registry from the same measly, fixed amount of tax dollars we complain about receiving.
That's why we're recommending to people that they let the Governor know that they don't want the money to be taken from the current BMF budget. We've included a link below for people to contact the Governor with this request.
Q. What if the Governor doesn't like the idea of designating funding for the Free Saltwater Registry and he decides to ignore the bill?
A. The Governor has 45 days from the day the bill is presented to him to act on it (note: If the House of origin is in recess on the 45th day, the time is extended until it reconvenes). If he doesn't act on the bill it automatically becomes law after 45 days. A request for designated funding can not cause the Governor to ignore the bill beyond the 45 day confine of the law.
Q. Is there federal funding available for the registry?
A. We've been told by the federal government that the registry does not qualify for Wallop-Breaux funding. We've been told that there is a Federal fund available that would support the development of a registration program but this not a permanent source of funding. We've also been informed that the states must have attained exempt status from the federal government before they can request the money. New Jersey does not currently have exempt status.
Also, simply submitting an application does not guarantee that a State will receive money nor does it guarantee how much money a State might be granted. If the registry costs $600,000 but the federal government grants $50,000, the balance will still have to be paid by someone at the State level. Again, even if NJ did receive some money this year it is not permanent, so it is unlikely it would be available next year to run the registry program.
Q. If the Governor signs the bill, will the registry be delayed because of the regulatory process?
A. The bill is written as a regulation and should the bill be signed, the saltwater registry would qualify for regulatory review. However, the Governor may have powers available to him to bypass or expedite the review process. Due to the urgent need for New Jersey to attain exempt status, we imagine the Governor would invoke any powers available to him to avoid a lengthy review period. This is something we will learn should he sign the bill.
Q. From what I've heard, the ability of the BMF to perform its federal and state responsibilities has eroded over the years. How can we change this?
A. The Bureau of Marine Fisheries (BMF) is responsible for the administration of marine fisheries programs. The mission of the bureau is to protect, conserve and enhance marine fisheries resources and their habitat. There are nearly 130 miles of Atlantic coast and 83 miles of bayshore under its charge.
The inadequacy of the $3.48 million BMF budget can be highlighted by the fact that the amount is used to manage 130 miles of New Jersey shoreline and is less than New Hampshire's budget, which used to manage only 13 miles of shoreline. New Jersey currently ranks last in total State Marine funding per angler among every Atlantic Coast State, this is according to United States Fish and Wildlife Service data (2006).
We should keep in mind that New Jersey's average recreational harvest ranking from 2002 – 2006 among all 14 Atlantic Coast States was # 1 for species such as summer flounder, bluefish and black sea bass, and # 2 for species such as tautog and striped bass. The dismal state of affairs at BMF should concern us since the other Atlantic Coast States are in a better position than New Jersey to compete for coast-wide fisheries quotas.
Over the decades it seems that the angling community has been so determined to argue whether, or how, the Bureau of Marine Fisheries should be funded that we've lost sight of the need to have a viable BMF that is accountable to stakeholders.
In the coming months, the NJOA CF will provide a forum for saltwater anglers and clubs to meet and develop a vision for a viable BMF. Once we can agree on what it is we want, then we can begin establishing goals and strategies to work towards our vision and figure out the way(s) to get adequate funding.
We will then take our plan to Trenton and as a coalition engage our legislators and ask for a law to provide an equitable, permanent and protected source of funding.
We realize that this is a daunting undertaking but it is in our own best interests to prioritize the competency of the BMF, which will give us a better ability to compete with the other States for our share of fishery quotas.
Q. I can't think of any good reason to charge for the right to fish in saltwater, can you?
A. It's already been determined by the Federal government that the States must have a saltwater registry. It is going to cost the State money to implement and manage the registry. We are recommending that you send your thoughts to the Governor. Let him know that you don't want to pay for the registry from monies currently budgeted for natural resource programs. Here's a link with a prewritten letter.
Anthony P. Mauro, Sr, (also known as “Ant” to friends and associates) is Chairman and co-founder of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance.
In addition to NJOA, Ant's commitment to the principles of sustainable use of natural resources and stewardship for the environment helped to found the New Jersey Angling & Hunting Conservation Caucus. The NJAHC is the first outdoor caucus of its kind in New Jersey and is designed to educate opinion leaders and policy makers of the principles of conservation and the benefits that confer to the state's wildlife and ecology.
A lifelong resident of New Jersey, Ant is an international big game hunter and avid conservationist. He has authored two books on conservation and hunting, including “Color The Green Movement Blue“.