The effort to establish a free saltwater angler registry has stalled at the legislature. A bill (LD 210) to create the free registry, sponsored by Senator David Trahan, seemed like a sure thing after it received the endorsement of Commissioner Norman Olson of the Department of Marine Resources.
Unfortunately, many members of the legislature’s Marine Resources Committee want to capture the money of saltwater recreational anglers and use it to plug holes in the budget of Olson’s department.
At an April 7 work session on the bill, committee members focused on the possibility of using the money from recreational anglers to pay for environmental tests of clam flats. Gone is any pretense that the fees paid by recreational anglers would be invested in the fish that those anglers seek.
At the March 8 public hearing
on Trahan’s bill, Olson testified, “First and foremost, we support the simplification of the registry to a basic registration requirement, without the complication of a striped bass endorsement. Further, we support the principle that the registry itself should be free.”
The establishment of a Maine saltwater angler registry comes in response to a federal mandate that the names and contact information for saltwater anglers be provided to the feds for the purpose of conducting surveys. Trahan’s bill brought together individuals and interest groups that bitterly fought each other last session as the legislature debated the same issue.
The result of that fight was enactment of a mixed-up mess for 2011 that allows inland anglers to register to fish in the saltwater for free, but requires registration fees – including a special permit to fish for striped bass - for those who fish only in the saltwater. The new system is terribly complicated and has confused saltwater anglers.
The likely result of the Marine Resources Committee’s reluctance to endorse Trahan’s bill may leave the mixed-up mess in place, and the Department of Marine Resources scrambling to implement a registration and permit system that it not longer wants or supports.
You could call this the tragedy of the clam flats.
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