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Fisheries Wants to Fill in the Blanks on Recreational Fishing License

By Lauren Morris
Fish Eye News
May 2008 Archive

Nearly half-a-million people bought a N.C. Coastal Recreational Fishing License last year, but the state only got telephone numbers for about half of them.

It is a statistic the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries would like to see increase with this, the second year of license sales, said Doug Mumford, DMF recreational statistics specialist.

“The reason DMF supported the license in the past was so that we would have a method for getting a list of anglers to collect recreational fishing information,” Mumford said.

One of the best ways to gather information is to call the fishermen and poll them about what they caught.

The Division of Marine Fisheries has discussed the problem with the Wildlife Resources Commission and Mumford is optimistic.

“We hope to make great progress in this area in the coming year,” Mumford said.

Last year, with a new license, sales agents had to collect several fields of information about the license holder.

“Some of the fields were mandatory; the telephone number was not,” Mumford said. “When they got busy, agents were inclined to not worry about the fields that were not mandatory.”

When the fishermen renew their licenses this year, the information gathered last year will pop up on the computer screen, allowing sales agents more time to get telephone numbers, Mumford said.

And the Wildlife Resources Commission has sent letters to license agents explaining the importance of collecting this information.

All-in-all, DMF considers it’s first year of the license a success, though sales fell below expectations.

From January 1, 2007 to Dec. 31, 2007, North Carolina sold 469,565 licenses. There were also 835 blanket licenses sold to fishing piers, charter boats and head boats. And there were 260,949 Wildlife Resources Commission lifetime license holders exempt from the CRFL requirement.

“We expect license sales to increase given that this is a new license and many visitors weren’t aware of the new license,” Mumford said. “Also, more and more people are moving into the area which will increase the number of licenses sold.”

Another reason DMF expects license sales to increase this year is that Marine Patrol has ended a year-long grace period in which they only gave out warning tickets for first offenses.

The most significant function of the CRFL is to provide the division with valuable insight. The new license is expected to be a tool to gauge the impact of recreational fishing on North Carolina’s fisheries, giving DMF the opportunity to more effectively and efficiently manage fish stocks. The CRFL allows DMF staff to communicate directly with recreational fishermen.

The CRFL also generates revenue that will be used to preserve and rebuild North Carolina’s fisheries. Money collected from license sales is being directed into two funds, the Marine Resources Fund and the Marine Endowment Fund. Don Hesselman, section chief of Licenses and Statistics at DMF, explained that the bulk of license monies are placed in the Marine Resources Fund, while the Endowment Fund is supplied by lifetime license sales.

The funds serve separate purposes. The Marine Resources Fund is designated to fund various projects. The Endowment Fund will not be spent for some time. The division is waiting for the balance of the Endowment Fund to grow, and then plans to spend the interest earned.

Hesselman reports, “Five million dollars have been directed into the Marine Resources Fund to date.” There are six existing obligations on these monies, mostly set aside by legislation. Projects are underway. One is already complete:$100,000 was earmarked for the North Carolina Coastal Recreational Angler’s Guide, which is currently being distributed throughout the state.

Another $200,000 has been set aside for the Chowan River Bridge project, a plan to convert a dated bridge into a fishing pier. Hesselman clarifies that this money is primarily intended for use in the design phase of the project.

The Fishery Independent Assessment has been allocated $340,000.This is a program that the Division of Marine Fisheries has been operating, without funding, for some years. It is primarily concerned with gill net fisheries.

Plans are in the works to hire a senior stock assessment scientist, and $100,000 dollars has been assigned to create this position. Also, two funds have been designated for administration of the CRFL. These have been allotted $866,000 total.

Hesselman explains, “If you subtract these obligations from the total sales, you will be left with $2.9 million.This money is going to be available to projects managed by universities, government agencies, researchers and the like.” 

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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