June 16, 2008
Keep Federal Hand Out of Saltwater Anglers’ Wallets
The federal government is planning to require some (but not all) saltwater sport fishermen to get a license as an "information- gathering" mechanism.
Considering this type of angling is one of the last refuges of unregulated sport fishing in Maine and seven other states, it would be better to leave its practitioners alone and use other valid ways to get the data.
The licensing program, to begin in 2009, would apply to anglers who fish in federal waters, which begin 3 miles offshore, as well as those who fish in intertidal waters for anadromous species, including striped bass, salmon, alewife shad and smelt.
Such fish spawn in rivers and streams and spend most of their adult lives in estuaries and the ocean.
The licenses, which would be free initially and then cost from $15 to $25 beginning in 2011, are being considered by the National Marine Fisheries Service for the eight coastal states, including Maine, that don't have their own registration programs.
The NMFS says it has a congressional requirement to improve the data it collects on affected species, and licensing would let it track population and catch ratios better.
One group would be exempt from the rule, however - charter boat clients wouldn't need licenses because the boats' operators can provide the information the government needs.
Granting that the data should be collected, there are better ways to do so than by laying a new fee on every individual with a fishing rod.
The science of polling has shown that a representative random sample can replicate real-world data from a much larger population within a very small margin of error.
Thus, surveys of a few well-chosen saltwater anglers should provide all the accuracy the NMFS needs without putting its hand in every fisherman's wallet.
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