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Jun 16, 2009 6:05 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Local lawmakers challenge saltwater fishing license proposal

Jun 16, 2009 6:05 PM

A new proposal to require state licenses for fishing in saltwater beginning this fall has caught the attention of the East End’s two state legislators, as well as the Town Trustees from Southampton, East Hampton and Southold, who have joined forces to oppose the change.

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. called the license proposal, which was adopted as part of the state budget earlier this year, a “revenue grab” that amounted to little more than a covert tax that would be borne disproportionately by the residents of Long Island.

“It’s another adverse impact on the economy of Long Island,” Mr. Thiele said, at the Sag Harbor Municipal Building on Friday morning, where a press conference brought together local officials opposed to the measure. “Fishing is a relatively inexpensive thing you can do with your family, and we’re adding expense to it.”

The licenses, as included in the budget and set to take effect in October, would require state residents to purchase a $10 annual license, or a $150 lifetime license, in order to fish in any saltwater bodies in the state. The fee for non-residents would be $15 a year. Short-term licenses, which would be good for one or seven days, could also be purchased by non-residents and cost $5 and $10, respectively.

The customers on hired charter fishing or party boats would not be required to have the saltwater license, provided the owner of the boat purchases a $400 blanket license each year.

Mr. Thiele and State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, who was also at Friday’s press conference, have both sponsored legislation that calls for repealing the state license requirement. The respective bills are still being reviewed by subcommittees.

New York State has long required licenses for fishing in freshwater and for hunting and trapping, and while saltwater licenses have been proposed many times in the past, they have never before received legislative support. With a massive budget gap facing the state, and the federal government set to impose a nationwide angler registry program on any state that did not have a saltwater license system in place, Governor David Paterson’s office and leaders in the State Legislature included the license proposal in the 2009 budget.

If the state does not impose its own saltwater license, as most states south of New England already have, the federal National Marine Fisheries Service will begin requiring that anglers participate in an annual registry starting in 2010. The program is needed to tabulate the number of people going fishing and how many fish they are catching.

Mr. Thiele said New York State should simply require that its residents participate in the federal registry and survey.

The projected revenues raised from the sale of licenses to New Yorkers and out-of-state visitors will be deposited in the state’s Conservation Fund, which finances environmental operations state-wide. Mr. Thiele predicted that the $3 million the state estimates it will collect through the selling of saltwater angling licenses will simply be used to plug holes in the state budget, and not reinvested to help improve saltwater fishing.

“I will make the prediction right now that this money will be used to fund existing positions in the [Department of Environmental Conservation] ... that were funded with taxes,” Mr. Thiele said.

Mr. Thiele added that drawing more revenue from fishermen, who he said already pay some $126 million in sales tax on tackle, bait, food and fuel each year, is unfair. He added that the proposal might be more acceptable if the state put the collected fees in a fund that is dedicated to improving marine resources.

Mr. Thiele also explained that the logistics of issuing licenses to hundreds of thousands of Long Island residents would likely fall onto the backs of local agencies that now issue freshwater fishing and hunting licenses—namely municipal clerks’ offices and tackle shops. He said he feared a deluge of license applicants might overwhelm small clerks offices and could possibly cost municipalities more than they can collect from the registering of licensees. (Sellers of the licenses get to keep a portion of the fee to cover their administrative costs.)

Ken Morse, a Sag Harbor bait and tackle shop owner, told the politicians gathered for Friday’s press conference that he no longer sells any state licenses because the paperwork burden is so great.

The members of the three Town Trustees boards on the East End, each among the oldest sitting government boards in the United States, also blasted the saltwater license proposal, calling it an unnecessary tax. They also questioned whether or not the new tax was a possible infringement on the rights granted to East End residents by the colonial-era patents that empowered the Trustees in the late 1600s. In Southampton and East Hampton towns specifically, the patents authored by then Governor General Thomas Dongan—a colonial administrator appointed by the King James II of England—decreed that all residents of the respective towns are entitled to unfettered “fishing, hawking, hunting and fowling.”

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I don't understand. Am I missing something? Wasn't Mr. Thiele in Albany when this was passed? If so, how effective is he as a representative if his response is to now challenge it after the fact in a press conference?
By SamIAm (36), hampton bays on Jun 13, 09 10:08 AM
Hey genius, read the first line:

"A new PROPOSAL that will require state licenses to fish in saltwater..."

Reading comprehension just ain't what it used to be.
By Undertow (64), Southampton on Jun 13, 09 7:29 PM
I fish these waters. If they were to use the revenue toward maintaining healthy fisheries, I'd have no problem paying it. But if they're just bleeding us to cover politically-driven overspending, then forget it.
By Blackjordan (15), Sag Harbor on Jun 13, 09 8:14 PM
Let Stuart Vorpahl open a shop in East Hampton that sells whale steaks and piping plover tacos and see how long the Dongan Patent protects him. The Colonial patents also protected "whaling" and "birding" in perpetuity, but the US constitution and federal law has superseded all that.
By snarko77 (49), Brookhaven on Jun 14, 09 9:42 AM
snarko77 : The Dongan Patent applies to local town waters. Its been a while since I've seen a whale in local waters. LOL.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Jun 14, 09 10:23 AM
Privatmatt -- Seal steaks and porpoise burgers, then -- it's legal to harvest all marine mammals under the Colonial patents. It's federal and State law that prohibits their taking. Let's see Vorpahl challenge those laws.
By snarko77 (49), Brookhaven on Jun 14, 09 1:59 PM
Problem is that Gov Patterson removed $3 mil from the DEC budget. He then comes up with this proposal for a fishing license that should pull in, you got it $3 mil per year, and pledges all the money wuil go to DEC for enviormental issues. Ipso facto, bend over, the Democrats are doing you again.
By Terry (380), Southampton on Jun 15, 09 11:54 AM
hey underdog, the word "proposal" is a political smokescreen. You need to read beyond the first line ..... to the second line ("which was adopted"). Why else would the trustees from four east end towns (And Thiele) be holding a press conference calling for its "repeal" ? If you can prove otherwise, I will try my best to comprehend. Otherwise, back to my question:: where was Mr. Thiele when it was adopted?
By SamIAm (36), hampton bays on Jun 15, 09 6:01 PM
If we had not overfished the shark population we wouldn't have so many seals eating the young flounder. We should put a bounty on comorans as they also eat most of the young fish and have no natural preditors.
By kelly (75), hampton bays on Jun 15, 09 8:58 PM
Kelly -- Don't know about the shark-seal connection around here -- I do know that the bigger "trustee" issue here is that the fish-crats are in breach of their fiduciary duty as trustees for the American seafood consumer in that they have sold us out to the Chinese. We are decimating Chinese waters of their flounder while our waters are paved with fluke which they won't let us catch so the people that own the fish -- the American consumer -- can afford to buy them. That's the real crime in the fishing ...more
By snarko77 (49), Brookhaven on Jun 16, 09 6:01 AM
Thiele voted against the license in the budget
By southfork11960 (14), Southampton on Jun 16, 09 1:33 PM
"Thiele voted against the license in the budget" ??? I am reminded of a Mark Twain Quote: A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.
By SamIAm (36), hampton bays on Jun 17, 09 10:20 AM
By flip182 (3), easthampton on Jun 19, 09 1:44 AM
The United States government is notorious for breaking treaties . . . using the long established principle: 'MIGHT OVER RIGHT'. Eventually it will be our downfall.

At the peak of British dominance in the middle 1800s. the father of modern conservative thinking, Edmund Burke, cautioned against British economic imperialism and how it eventually leads towards their being a most hated country. Britian’s American colony did not fall far from the tree.

My hat goes off to Stuart ...more
By Neil C (1), Denver on Jul 11, 09 6:41 PM