WASHINGTON - Recreational saltwater anglers who were supposed to register with the federal government by January are off the hook for a year.
After reviewing nearly 500 comments on its proposed registry, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Tuesday that the registration requirement will be delayed until Jan. 1, 2010.
An estimated 15 million people fish for fun in the oceans and tidal areas around the country and the government is setting up the registry to better understand how this sport affects fish stocks and to gauge its value to local economies.
The federal registrations will include an angler's name, date of birth, address, telephone number and the regions where they intend to fish. NOAA will use the information to conduct surveys on fishing effort and amounts of fish caught.
The agency said that once a person has registered, they may fish anywhere in U.S. federal waters regardless of the region or regions the person specified on the registration form.
The registration is good for one year. No fee is planned the first year, but the agency said there will be a charge estimated at $15 to $25 annually starting in 2011.
The registration rule will cover anyone who fishes recreationally in federal waters with certain exceptions.
Some states have their own registry, and if that information is made available to NOAA, people who sign up with the state would not have to also join the federal program.
People who fish only on licensed party, charter or guide boats would not be required to register, as those vessels are surveyed separately.
Those with permits to fish for highly migratory species, such as tunas or swordfish, and those fishing under commercial fishing licenses will be exempt.
And anglers registered or permitted to fish in a formal state or federal subsistence fishery will also be exempt, as will anglers under 16.
States with saltwater licensing or registration programs that meet federal requirements are Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Delaware.
Those with licensing or registration programs that have gaps compared to the federal requirement are Florida, South Carolina, Virginia and Maryland.