Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Fishing Tax: Is it 'bureaucratic bovine scatology'?

This is a thoughtful letter written by Bristolian, Mike Byrnes, to the editor of the Bristol Phoenix. To date, it has not been published. It is addressed to all Salt Water Fisherman in RI.

The June 11, 2009 Bristol Phoenix contained an editorial on an issue that every Rhode Island fisherman should note with great concern. The editorial “Here comes the tautog tax” outlined the impact House Bill-6226 that is presently making its way through the legislative process. The Phoenix editorial makes a strong case that this bill adds yet another unnecessary tax, is a nuisance in that it requires the registration and a license to fish in our bays and harbors. For more than 300 years Rhode Islanders have been able to go to the shore or take a boat into the bay and seek their luck without government interference and the payment of a tax. We should all ask why the federal government is pushing coastal states to enact legislation that will force salt water fishermen to get an annual license. The rationale in the House Bill is that registering salt water fishermen will allow the National Marine Fisheries Service and DEM to better assess recreational catch numbers for effective stock assessment. But recreational fishermen catch only about three percent of the total catch – a statistically insignificant number. And in a dubious assumption the bill expects that salt water fishermen will accurately report their catch numbers. As we all know fishermen tend to be more enthusiastic than accurate. The House Bill maintains that this will be “a convenient and inexpensive licensing process”, but it does not explain how this program will be implemented beyond some reference to a web based application. Nor does it explain at the starting cost of $7 per license how much revenue will be generated. Furthermore, it does not address how the revenues will be used to: “support better fishing assessments”; “improved and expanded opportunities for the public to access the marine waters of the state”, and “effective management programs that optimize benefits and opportunities for Rhode Island recreational fishermen”. Pardon me, but in plain language this qualifies as bureaucratic bovine scatology! The Phoenix editorial was more kind and termed this “tortured rationale”. Both terms fit quite well. Additionally, this $7 tax will also pay for: “administering and enforcing ($100 fines); a “state-approved vendor to develop and administer a web based service”; “authorized licensing agents”; and “collection and transmittal of license fee revenues”. Those who fish in Mt Hope Bay will have to get two licenses as schooling bass and blues do not respect state boundaries. Make no mistake, government regulation of fisheries is important and recreational fishermen by and large abide by these limits, but this federal and state law is nothing but an unnecessary imposition on the liberty of Rhode Islanders. I will have to see if the “Independent Man” still graces the dome of our state house.

Michael T. Byrnes
244 Metacom Ave

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