Free Registry: Are Saltwater Anglers Picking Their Own Pocket?

Free Registry: Are Saltwater Anglers Picking Their Own Pockets?
By Anthony P Mauro, Sr (c) 2011

Conservation Corner w/ Anthony P. Mauro, Sr
Conservation Corner w/ Anthony P. Mauro, Sr

USA –-( We’ve all heard the cliché that tells us that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

We all know that if something appears to be free, there’s a catch and we end up paying in one form or another.

When a business offers something for free the cost is actually hidden in the price of the products it sells. If the government provides something for free it is paid for by our tax dollars.

We know that a free saltwater registry will cost something to implement and manage. Estimates are in the range of $600,000. We also know that it will be paid for by state government in the form of our tax dollars. The important question saltwater anglers need to be asking is where the money will come from to pay for the registry. If we are to be “pick pockets” we should know upfront if it is our own pocket we will be picking.

Some of us might be thinking that it will be the “general public” that will have their pocket picked. In this scenario, we might feel comfortable thinking that the money will be taken from some obscure account that will not impact us directly. However, with a $10.7 billion budget deficit facing our state it is unlikely it will be paid by the general public since there is a shortage of money to pay for even the most essential things.

Therefore, it is more likely that the money will come from the department responsible for the free registry. The NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is likely to own the pocket that will pay for the saltwater registry. The DEP’s core mission is to protect our air, waters, land, and natural and historic resources.

The DEP has several pockets and will likely choose the one that pays for the protection and management of natural resources; the Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW). It is this pocket that pays for things that have an impact on fishing, hunting, forestry, and threatened and endangered species. This is our own pocket; the brotherhood of anglers, hunters and nature enthusiasts.

But who will be the party that assumes the financial burden of the free registry? Freshwater anglers and hunters pay for a license to access land and water quarry. Their license money helps to protect and manage the resources they enjoy. To pick their pockets to pay for the $600,000 free saltwater registry is not only unjust, but it will pit saltwater angler against freshwater angler and hunter; brother against brother.

However, it is likely that the DFW will choose to pick from the pocket of the saltwater angler since it is he or she that benefits from the free registry. The DFW will likely remove $600,000 from the Bureau of Marine Fisheries (BMF.)

Therefore, when the saltwater angler supports a “free” registry he is likely to be impacting his own fate – the money will come from the pocket that provides for the very things that he or she enjoys. But saltwater anglers will not have much say as to where in the pocket the funds will be lifted. It may come from monies directed at maintaining or creating artificial reefs or those used to manage fisheries (specifically fishery research) or perhaps some other fishery functions.

Many saltwater anglers don’t realize that the state of affairs of BMF is so destitute that it struggles to provide even the most basic research required by the federal government for fishery management. So, the decision to pick our own pocket today may have a direct impact on the species we are able to fish in the future. Correcting current shortfalls would take years to reverse even if we were to begin at this moment. However, the BMF continues on a course of deterioration.

For these reasons NJOA (CF) council members did not feel a free saltwater registry was a viable solution to federal registry requirements. We feel that given New Jersey’s enormous budget deficit a free saltwater registry will only serve to pick our own pocket. We have maintained that a $2.00 administrative fee will cover the registry cost and defer a more serious decline in our management of fisheries until we can find equitable way to reverse the dire financial situation at BMF.

As a result, those that sponsor and support a free registry are picking our collective pockets. In response, the NJOA (CF) council is asking to know the source of funding so that all saltwater anglers may decide to what degree they are willing to comprise the integrity of the resources they enjoy. We also want assurances that it will not be paid for by our brothers and sisters that freshwater fish or hunt.

We have not suggested that anglers defeat the legislation – instead, we are strongly recommending that they be educated about the funding source and the ramifications of raiding the BMF. It is not wise for anglers to go along unquestioningly even if to do so is against the tide of a popular opinion. It is best to have a hand in deciding our own fate and not be cynically used by others. The outdoor community should not feel intimated about asking a simple and honest question about funding.

When anglers call the Governor’s office (1-609-292-6000) they should ask where the funding will come from to pay for bill S1122/A823 – the free saltwater registry. We should understand the consequence of picking our own pocket.

Color The Green Movement Blue
Color The Green Movement Blue

Anthony P. Mauro, Sr, (also known as “Ant” to friends and associates) is Chairman and co-founder of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance.

In addition to NJOA, Ant’s commitment to the principles of sustainable use of natural resources and stewardship for the environment helped to found the New Jersey Angling & Hunting Conservation Caucus. The NJAHC is the first outdoor caucus of its kind in New Jersey and is designed to educate opinion leaders and policy makers of the principles of conservation and the benefits that confer to the state’s wildlife and ecology.

A lifelong resident of New Jersey, Ant is an international big game hunter and avid conservationist. He has authored two books on conservation and hunting, including “Color The Green Movement Blue“.

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