National Saltwater Angler Registry Opens on New Year’s Day

New program, part of improved data collection system, to help protect nation’s ocean resources

December 29, 2009

Charter vessel anglers netting a salmon.
Charter vessel anglers netting a salmon.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Saltwater recreational fishermen have long expressed concerns about the data used to estimate the effects of recreational fishing on ocean resources and the nation’s economy. The National Saltwater Angler Registry, which launches on Friday, will help address that concern by providing a comprehensive list of the nation’s saltwater anglers that will be used to improve surveys of fishermen. These surveys are used by NOAA scientists to assess the health of fish stocks and to estimate the economic contributions of anglers.

Many saltwater recreational fishermen will be required to register before fishing in 2010. The registry is open for registrations starting Friday, January 1. But if you have a state saltwater fishing license, you may already be part of the registry.

“By registering, recreational anglers will make their catch count," said Jim Balsiger, acting NOAA assistant administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “The National Saltwater Angler Registry is an important tool that will enable us to better estimate the health of marine fisheries so that we’re able to preserve the pastime of recreational saltwater fishing for generations to come."

“Recreational fishers need the registry,” says Capt. Monty Hawkins, a party boat operator and recreational fishing advocate based in Ocean City, Md. “People’s lives depend on the quality of the government’s information. It’s the basis for management decisions on everything from creel limits to whether to shut down whole sections of the coast. I’ve been harshly critical of recreational fishing data in the past, but I welcome the registry as a way to improve upon the current system."

Gordon Colvin, a biologist with NOAA’s Fisheries Service and interim senior policy advisor on recreational fishing to Balsiger, who has spearheaded the registry implementation, said that many anglers will not need to take any action to register, because their coastal states already have agreements in place with NOAA to share state saltwater fishing license information.

Charter vessel anglers netting a salmon.
Charter vessel anglers netting a salmon.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Who Needs to Register:

Recreational saltwater fishermen will need to register if they:

Who Doesn’t Need to Register

Some anglers don’t have to register if they:

National Saltwater Angler registration is free in 2010. To register beginning Friday, anglers can visit NOAA's Marine Recreational Information Program and click on the Angler Registry link, or call the toll-free registration line at 1-888-MRIP411 (1-888-674-7411) from 4:00 am to 12 midnight EST daily.

Anglers will need to provide their name, date of birth, address and telephone number, and will receive a registration number that will allow them to begin fishing immediately. They will receive a registration card in the mail in about 30 days.

Fisherman at mouth of Kennebec River.
Fisherman at mouth of Kennebec River.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Steve Medeiros, executive director of the Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association and a leading advocate for a saltwater fishing license in his state, said the registry is an important step. “While it’s true that some fishermen don’t like the idea of having to register to participate in a sport they’ve taken for granted their whole lives, anyone fishing today knows that increasing pressures on the ocean are having a real effect,” he said. “If we’re going to pass the sport down to our children and grandchildren, we’re going to need sound management based on good data.”

The registry will be used as the basis for conducting surveys of saltwater recreational fishermen to find out how often they fish. It will eventually replace the use of random-digit dialing to coastal households, a system NOAA has had in place since the 1970s. The goal is to improve survey efficiency and reduce bias by making calls only to homes where people fish, and reaching saltwater anglers who live outside coastal counties.

While the registry is among the most visible aspects of NOAA’s Marine Recreational Information Program, it is only one component of this rigorous multi-year, multi-phased overhaul of the system NOAA uses to collect and report recreational fishing data. Each piece of its design and implementation has been guided by close working relationships among NOAA personnel, fisheries managers, state partners, independent scientists and the recreational fishing community.

Recreational fishermen should also remember that regardless of whether an individual is registered with NOAA, they must obey all state regulations and licensing requirements where they are fishing.

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