National Saltwater Angler Registry
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Frequently Asked Questions
1) What was the impetus for creating the registry?

As the Federal agency responsible for ensuring the long-term sustainability of our nation's ocean resources, NOAA continually evaluates the quality of recreational fishing data we collect and report. As part of this ongoing review process, in 2006, NOAA sought the input of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences. Considering the ever more detailed uses of NOAA's data in stock assessments and fisheries management decision-making, the Council recommended an overhaul of NOAA's data program that would enable us to provide more detailed and timely information to managers, fishermen and other stakeholders. One of the NRC's recommendations was the creation of a universal "phone book" - or registry - of current saltwater anglers. This system will replace the previous method of randomly dialing coastal households, providing a far more efficient and effective way to determine the number of people fishing and the number of trips they take, or what is known as the overall fishing effort. More information about the NRC's recommendations and how NOAA is working to implement them can be found at I can also mail you information if you do not have Internet access.

2) Why are people being required to register?

Registration is a way for NOAA and anglers to work together to help ensure the long-term future of saltwater fishing. The registry will serve as a national “phone book” of anglers, allowing NOAA to quickly and easily reach current fishermen to learn about their most recent fishing activities. That information is a crucial part of our ability to estimate the health of fish stocks, and to check that protections put in place to preserve fisheries will be fair, effective, and based on sound science. The registry is also a tool for recreational fishermen. As the first comprehensive accounting of the scope of recreational saltwater fishing in the U.S., it will help to more fully demonstrate anglers' economic, conservation and marine stewardship impacts. More information about fisheries management and NOAA's role in collecting fishing data can be found at I can also mail you information if you do not have Internet access.

3) Is the future of saltwater fishing really in doubt?

With the data necessary to effectively manage fisheries in hand, NOAA has no doubt that our nation's tradition of saltwater recreational fishing will continue into the future. It is true, however, that there are numerous pressures like pollution, climate change, and in some cases overfishing, which have made the work of fisheries managers - and the data they rely upon to do their work - more important than ever. More information about the health of our oceans and the work being done to protect them can be found at online at I can also mail you information if you do not have Internet access.

4) Why are recreational fishermen being asked to register? Do they really have that great of an impact on the resource?

According to the latest statistics, there are as many as 25 million saltwater recreational anglers in the country, and reports say those numbers are on the rise. These fishermen take 100 million trips per year. In doing so, they generate some $82.3 billion in sales, and support more than half a million jobs. They also catch a lot of fish. While many people assume the number of fish caught by recreational fishermen must pale in comparison to the commercial harvest, the truth is that for many popular species - such as striped bass, bluefish, tautog and black rockfish to name just a few - the recreational take is by far the largest proportion.

5) Who needs to register?

I have a quick series of questions that I can walk you through to best answer that question if you'd like. Or you can visit for more details. I can also mail you information if you do not have Internet access.

6) What is meant by “angling” and “spear fishing”?

Generally speaking, angling and spear fishing mean using a hook and line, or a spear, to try to catch fish. Technically, angling and spear fishing include fishing for, attempting to fish for, catching or attempting to catch fish using a hook that is attached to a line that is hand held or by rod and reel (angling) or by a spear or powerhead (spear fishing).

7) Is there a fee to register?

There is no fee to register in 2010. A fee will be required as of January 1, 2011.

8) How much will registration cost in 2011?

The fee for NSAR registration has not been established yet, but NOAA estimates it will cost $29.00.

9) How will the fee be determined?

According to Federal law, the registration fee will be calculated based on the cost to administer the program. That means that NOAA will look at the total amount of money it takes to run the registry, and divide that by the anticipated number of people registering. In other words, if the program costs $25,000 to operate and 1,000 people were registering, the fee would be $25 per angler.

10) Where will the money go?

Fees collected by the National Saltwater Angler Registry will go to the Federal treasury. They will not be designated for any specific purpose. In the case of anglers who are automatically registered when they buy a state license, money paid to the state will be used for purposes determined by that state. If you have a saltwater fishing license, call your state department of natural resources for more information.

11) Must I register every year?

Yes. Your registration is valid for one year from that date on which you registered. If you live in an “exempted state” - that is, a state that has its own saltwater fishing license and an agreement with NOAA to automatically register anglers - your National Saltwater Angler Registry will be renewed every time you renew your state fishing license. If you currently have a state saltwater fishing license, I can tell you whether it is from an exempted state.

12) What if I have a lifetime license from my state?

If you live in an exempted state and hold a license from that state that allows you to fish in the state's marine waters, you are automatically registered with NOAA and do not need to take any further action. Depending on the state, examples of such licenses could include a lifetime saltwater fishing license, a combination freshwater and saltwater license, or a combination hunting and saltwater fishing license. If you currently have a state saltwater fishing license, I can tell you whether it is from an exempted state.

13) I live in an exempted state, but I am not required to have a state license because [I am a senior; I am in the armed services but home on leave; I am disabled.] Do I need to buy a state license anyway to avoid the federal registration requirement?

No. If you reside in an exempted state and are not required by the laws of that state to hold a saltwater fishing license, you do not need to register with NOAA. However, we recommend that you carry identification, proof of residency and proof of eligibility for a state license exemption with you when you are fishing to show to Law Enforcement officers if requested. If you tell me what state you live in, I can tell you if it is an exempted state.

14) What is the case with temporary licenses?

If you live in an exempted state, you will be registered for as long as your temporary license is valid. When that license expires, so does your enrollment in the Registry. If you renew the license, your registration is automatically reactivated. If you are trying to determine whether you need to register, I can walk you through a brief series of questions that may help.

15) How will I prove that I have registered?

When you register, you will be issued a temporary registration number. If you register online, you may print the screen page with the number. If you register by telephone, you will need to record the number and keep it with you when you are fishing. Within 45 days, you will receive your permanent registration certificate and number in the mail.

16) I just decided I want to go fishing today. Can I register and legally fish today?

Yes. Registration only takes a few minutes on the telephone or internet. Simply write down the registration number you receive and take it with you when you go fishing to present to Law Enforcement if requested. Within 45 days, you will receive a permanent registration card in the mail.

17) What information am I required to provide in order to register?

You will be asked to give your name, address, date of birth and current home or cell telephone number. You'll also be asked which region of the country you plan on fishing in, but this is for informational purposes only. The registration is valid anywhere it is required regardless of the response to this question.

18) Once I register with NMFS, will I still need a state license?

Yes. If a state license is required for your fishing activity, you will need to have that license in addition to a federal registration certificate.

19) What is the penalty for not registering?

Penalties will vary, depending upon the circumstances of a specific situation. You may view the penalty schedule used by Law Enforcement personnel as guidance in assessing and seeking penalties for violation of the registration requirement at:

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