Saltwater fishing license would cost $15 per year RALEIGH – A state House finance committee Tuesday approved a bill that would give control of proceeds from a saltwalter recreational fishing license to a bulked-up Marine Fisheries Commission.
The $15-per-year license would go into effect Jan. 1, 2007, and bring in about $19.4 million annually that the commission could authorize for projects to manage, restore and enhance marine resources, state officials estimate.
Fisheries officials were happy with the legislation.
“It’s hard to make it better from my perspective,” said Preston Pate, director of the state Division of Marine Fisheries.
“It addresses the vast majority of concerns we had with last year’s bill,” said commission Chairman Jimmy Johnson.
It also tackles issues Johnson, Pate and others raised about a state Senate version of the bill that gives the Wildlife Resources Commission oversight of the license money.
It was not a change the Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina necessarily wanted to see, said Mike Ward, president of the CCA. The sportsfishing organization has, in the past, opposed giving authority over the money to any board with commercial fishing membership.
However, Ward spoke in favor of the finance committee’s bill Tuesday.
“The money and the data are more important than us,” Ward said. “We just want to get it through the House and hopefully we’ll be able to express our opinion in a compromise.”
Jerry Schill, president of the New Bern-based North Carolina Fisheries Association, said his commercial fishing lobbying group still opposes the license, but this version is much better than others.
“That’s about the best system I’ve seen,” Schill said.
The legislation adds four members to the Marine Fisheries Commission. Two would be appointed by the House speaker and two by the Senate president pro-tem.
Rep. William Wainwright, D-Craven, Finance Committee co-chairman, said some legislators have expressed worries about the current composition of the commission. He said the concern stems from some of the decisions the board has made, but he would not be more specific.
“We hope that through some communication between the appointing officials that they can appoint people to the commission that truly have an interest in fisheries and would be committed the success of the various fishing plans and make sure that the marine fisheries commission run effectively and efficiently,” Wainwright said.
The bill still must be passed by the entire House and then go back to the Senate for approval of the changes. Provisions in both the House and Senate budget bills would repeal a current state law establishing a saltwater fishing license if no agreement can be reached.
Under that law, as of Jan. 1, 2006, anyone older than age 18 who fishes coastal waters of the state would be required to purchase a $15-a-year license or a one-week license for $1.
The bill approved by the committee Tuesday seeks to amend that law, keeping the $15-a-year annual fee but upping the price to $30 for non-residents. It replaces the $1 one-week license with a 10-day license that would cost $5 for residents and $10 for non-residents.
It also sets up unified licenses to cover both coastal and inland fishing and hunting in the state.
Those younger than age 16 would not need a license to fish, and those who hold certain lifetime fishing licenses issued by the Wildlife Resources Commission prior to Jan. 1, 2005, would be exempt from the saltwater license requirement. Charter boat operators and pier owners would be able to purchase a blanket license to cover their customers.
Patricia Smith can be reached at email@example.com or by calling (252) 808-2275.