Saltwater fishing rules to change Jan. 1

- Posted on Dec 01, 2010 - 05:04 PM

Starting Jan. 1, adult saltwater anglers in Virginia either must obtain a valid saltwater fishing license or register with Virginia’s Fisherman Identification Program.

According to a release from Virginia Marine Resources Commission spokesman John Bull, the Fisheries Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is authorized beginning in 2011 to charge fishermen an annual fee of $15 to register with the National Saltwater Angler Registry.

But Virginia’s saltwater anglers don’t have to pay the fee or sign up with the national registry because the state has been exempted, he said. VMRC instead made arrangements to collect contact information when anglers buy their annual state saltwater fishing license.

Some anglers are exempt from buying an annual license, said Bull, but they’re not exempt from registering with the new Fisherman Identification Program and supplying their contact information before they fish every year.

Registration is free of charge, said Bull, and can be taken care of by Jan. 1 by going to www.mrc.virginia.gov/FIP or by calling 800-723-2728.

Purpose of the program

The intent, said Bull, is to create a Virginia-wide "phone book" of saltwater anglers, which will be given to NOAA in order to improve fishing effort surveys.

The information will help NOAA better estimate the health of marine fisheries, he said, so that more effective regulations can be established to preserve recreational fishing for the anglers, fishing businesses, coastal communities and millions of Americans whose lives and livelihoods are connected to saltwater fishing.

Virginians who have to register with the Fisherman Identification Program are those who fish legally without a license (such as on a boat licensed to cover all anglers, from a commercial pier or private property, or fishermen who are age 65 and older) or who fish in tidal freshwater for anadromous species such as striped bass (rockfish) or other marine species. They will be issued an identification number free of charge to keep with them while fishing to prove they have registered.

Virginia is one of 22 of the nation’s 24 coastal states that now have saltwater angler registries or licenses and have been exempted from the federal requirement.

For more information or to register, visit www.CountMyFish.noaa.gov or call 888-MRIP-411.