Let’s Be Fair with Licensing Fees
Recreational fishing license fees have been increased twice in recent years to meet shortfalls in the Department of Natural Resource’s operating budget for the administration of recreational programs. As a result, DNR brings in enough money to fund its sport-fishing management, including police enforcement.
In contrast, commercial license fees have stayed steady for almost 20 years. DNR’s increasing costs for managing commercial fishing — administration, research and law enforcement — have been financed by the Maryland taxpayer and the transfer of monies intended for the recreational sector. The shortfall between fees and administration is close to $3 million.
Yellow Perch Appreciation Day
You and your kids are invited to join an annual celebration and yellow perch fishing tournament on March 2 at Community Park in Northeast, Maryland, starting at 9am. Registration and additional information:
Lefty Kreh’s Tiefest
Renamed this year for Lefty’s 88th birthday party, this annual celebration of the art of fly tying, the 11th, is bigger and better than ever. The event is free if you’re a member of Coastal Conservation Association or join at the door. Otherwise it’s $10. Rub shoulders with the best and most innovative fly tiers in the country, plus free fly-casting lessons for kids. Food and adult beverages on sale. March 9: 10am-4:30pm at Prospect Bay Country Club, 313 Prospect Bay Drive West, Grasonville: 202-744-5013 (Tony Friedrich); www.ccamd.org.
The yellow perch run is rolling. The Tuckahoe, Choptank, Magothy and Severn are hosting the early runs in the mid-Bay. The Northeast River on the Susquehanna Flats is finally showing some good fish as well.
Canada geese, resident: thru March 6
Last year, legislation was enacted to require all costs associated with the commercial side of DNR operations to be funded by commercial fees. That law was passed with the concurrence of watermen’s associations.
New bills before the General Assembly, however, look suspiciously like a cover for getting others to pay for a substantial portion of the commercial funding deficit.
SB 525/HB 1253 — Fishing – Sustainable Fisheries Enforcement Fund – is recommended by the Chesapeake Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Association as financial support for Maryland Natural Resource Police. It proposes a $10 license surcharge for both recreational and commercial fishermen. Theoretically, it would be earmarked for the NRP.
That surcharge would bring in $2.5 million by increasing the cost of a recreational fishing license from $15 to $25. The commercial sector’s contribution would amount to only $40,000.
Yet NRP budget shortfalls exist solely on the commercial side.
Another bill also shifts the commercial burden. SB 662/HB 1241: Natural Resources – Commercial Fishing – Licensing raises certain annual fees and surcharges for some commercial fishing licenses. The increases generate only about half of the industry’s projected funding deficit.
Another provision in the bill requires any purchaser of Maryland seafood for resale to be licensed as a dealer. Apparently this provision would apply to all Maryland supermarkets, seafood stores, private resellers and restaurants. These undefined license fees would begin immediately.
Again the commercial fishing industry intends for someone else to subsidize its cost of operations — as well as demanding an entirely new licensing and inspection process.
Laws already on the books state that the cost of commercial fishing programs be borne totally by fees raised within that sector. The meaning of the statute couldn’t be clearer. Why shouldn’t legislators and state officials simply insist that the language and intent of the existing law be enforced?
Fair is fair, and the law is the law.