Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today directed Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to issue refunds to recreational fishermen and charter boat operators who purchased a Recreational Marine Fishing License (RMFL) in addition to refunding license fees to New Yorkers who purchased lifetime licenses. The federal government requires all fishermen in marine waters must be registered, and the state originally met this requirement by adopting the RMFL program. However, the 2011-2012 New York State budget eliminated the license fee, and created a no-fee registration program to comply with federal law. Therefore, any New Yorker who purchased a license for 2011 will be issued a refund.
"We fought for provisions in the state budget to restore free fishing in New York's saltwater areas so it's only fair the New Yorkers who had to pay for licenses receive a refund," Governor Cuomo said. "The federal government required that we help manage a wide variety of species in coastal waters, but it was unfair to ask New Yorkers to pay for it. Fair is fair -- if you bought a license or paid a charter boat fee for this year before our new free registry was in place, you will get your money back."
"New York's angler community plays an essential role in the management of the state's fish and wildlife programs," Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens said. "Federal requirements for a state tracking program to fish in coastal waters were intended to help manage a wide variety of saltwater species but it was a mistake to put an added cost burden on anglers. The new, no-fee registry will allow New Yorkers to experience fishing in coastal areas without any additional cost."
Refunds totaling $1,350,000 have already been issued to approximately 9,000 saltwater anglers who purchased a "lifetime license" in 2010. Starting today the Department of Environmental Conservation will begin issuing refunds to approximately 200 charter boat operators totaling $80,000 dollars; and, approximately 23,000 individuals who purchased an annual license in 2011 will receive refunds totaling $220,000 dollars.
Charter operators refunds will be paid out of the Conservation Fund Fish and Game Trust Account. Annual license refunds will be paid out of the Conservation Fund Marine Account. All refunds are expected to be issued by the end of summer.
Senator Lee M. Zeldin said, "Governor Cuomo's unyielding leadership, vision and dedication is getting our state's fiscal house in order and stimulating our economy. Earlier this year, we passed a budget that successfully eliminated the fee to the recreational saltwater fishing license. And now the Governor is taking this one step further by directing the DEC to refund those individuals and businesses who purchased an annual fishing license for 2011. In addition, the new no-fee registry will continue to ensure that fishing remains free for all New Yorkers and make Long Island more attractive to tourist and businesses."
Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said, "By directing the DEC to issue refunds to fishermen and businesses that purchased a license, Governor Cuomo is putting money back into the pockets of thousands of New Yorkers. This is real money that will benefit real people as well as bolster Long Island's fishing and tourism industry. I thank Governor Cuomo for making fishing affordable for all New Yorkers."
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer said, "Fishing in the ocean, Sound and Great South Bay was never meant to be like driving through the Midtown Tunnel, with a fee-to-enter. That's why we fought so hard and this is such a huge win for Long Island families and small fishing businesses who will now not have to pay these unprecedented and unfair license fees. By creating a free license registry, Governor Cuomo and the New York State legislature have done the right thing for Long Island anglers already struggling in these tough economic times."
Tony DiLernia said, "I thank Governor Cuomo for taking action to refund fishermen and businesses across the state. The Governor is giving us our money back and making sure that fishing is available to any and all New Yorkers. Long Island's local economy depends on the tourism and business generated by the fishing industry and the no-fee registry will continue to create jobs and business opportunities."
Jim Hutchinson Jr., Managing Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance said, "Governor Cuomo has made it clear that his top priority is to stimulate New York's economy and protect our states natural resources at the same time. In directing the DEC to refund fishermen and businesses, the Governor is putting real money back into the pockets of New Yorkers. I applaud the Governor for creating the no-fee registry that will help create and sustain jobs throughout the fishing community in Long Island."
No-Fee Registry in Place
In compliance with amendments to the Environmental Conservation Law that eliminated recreational marine fishing license fees, Governor Cuomo directed the DEC to establish a no-fee registration system. All anglers 16 years of age and older who take fish from the waters of the marine district, or who take anadromous fish from any waters of the state, are required to register with NYSDEC through DECALS, the Department's automated sporting licenses system.
The requirement is identical to that of the previously instituted Recreational Marine Fishing License, but is now without charge. Those fishing from a for-hire party or charter fishing vessel that is licensed by DEC are not required to obtain an individual registration.
To register, anglers can go to the usual outlets for sporting licenses, or register online anytime on the DEC website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/6101.html. After registering, anglers will be given a card similar to the fishing license the registry replaced. Those registering online should print out their receipt. The registration card or receipt must be in possession when exercising the privileges of the registration.
The new registration fulfills a federal mandate to develop a database of New York marine recreational anglers in order to improve federal recreational fishing surveys about the number and size of their catch.
Anglers must register with New York even if they have already registered with the federal National Saltwater Angler Registry. DEC will be uploading the names and addresses of all lifetime, charter boat operators, and individuals who purchased an RMFL in 2011 into the free registry, therefore those license holders will not need to register this year, but are required to register in 2012.
For more information, visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/54950.html on the DEC website.