Image courtesy Visit Florida
With only a few exceptions, Floridians fishing in saltwater anywhere in the state must be licensed. Anglers may choose between the standard saltwater license ($17) required of anyone fishing from a vessel (which also covers shoreline fishing) or the new shoreline license ($9).
A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman says so far law enforcement officers have focused on education rather than citation. Calls coming into state offices have demonstrated a mix of criticism and support. Many anglers state that it's "just another way to get more money."
However the primary reason for this change results from new federal regulations originally mandated by Congress. Florida and all other coastal states are rushing to beat a Jan. 1, 2010, deadline set by NOAA Fisheries.
On that date, NOAA will institute a National Saltwater Angler Registry. In states where no approved licensing programs exist, anglers must register with NOAA by calling a toll-free number or signing up online. No federal fee would be charged in 2010, but anglers would pay an estimated $15 to $25 a year beginning in 2011. Money collected would go to NOAA versus state agencies.
This requirement reportedly stems from a 2007 statute approved by Congress to improve data collection from the recreational fishing sector. Scientists need to know the economic and fisheries/environmental impact of the nation's estimated 15 million-plus saltwater anglers, NOAA says.
For more information on the Florida shoreline license, visit http://myfwc.com/NEWSROOM/Resources/News_Resources_ShorelineFishingFAQs.htm#questions.
To learn more about the National Saltwater Angler Registry, visit www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/mrip/aboutus/organization/anglerteam.html