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Merwin: Saltwater Licensing Postponed

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December 22, 2008

Merwin: Saltwater Licensing Postponed

By John Merwin & Joe Cermele

A federal rule that would have required most unlicensed
saltwater anglers to join an "Angler Registry" by Jan. 1, 2009 has
been postponed. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has
developed the proposed rule as required under law by the Magnuson-
Stevens Act. Anglers fishing in federal waters as well as those
fishing in (inshore) state waters for anadromous fish such as striped
bass were to have registered as such with NMFS, creating what amounts
to a federal saltwater fishing license. The exceptions were those
anglers already holding a saltwater license from states that require
them. Northeastern coastal states from New Jersey north to Maine do
not (yet) require a license.

When I asked NMFS spokesman Forbes Darby last week what
happened to the rule, he explained that NMFS had submitted the
proposed rule to the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for
approval. This has to happen before the rule is made official by
publication in the Federal Register. OMB has yet to reply, Darby told
me, which means the new licensing rule can't be implemented by the
planned January 1 deadline. Darby had no guess as to when OMB approval
might happen.

Saltwater licensing is a hugely contentious issue in the
Northeast. The question remains not if it is going to happen--it will--but when.

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