SACRAMENTO — Fishing reform in California appears to be making some progress as a proposal aiming to making licenses free to minors cleared the State Assembly’s Appropriations Committee before being placed on the suspense file on April 5.
Assembly member Marie Waldron (R-Escondido) sought to make it easier for Californians to participate in recreational fishing by eliminating fees for anglers younger than 18. Her proposal – Assembly Bill 478, or AB 478 – gained initial support in committee and will now be set aside for consideration by a majority of the lower house.
A bill on suspense file must clear a hearing and vote by a majority of State Senators or Assembly members in order to move forward
Passage of AB 478 is necessary to increase recreational fishing participation in California, according to proponents.
“This bill increases the eligibility to fish for free to 18 years of age,” California Sportfishing League staff said in a statement in favor of AB 478. “Given that [more than] 70 percent of anglers learned to fish during their youth, making fishing more affordable could increase future fishing participation rates and increase future fishing license sales.”
While supporters of AB 478 stated the proposed legislation would help recreational fishing participation in the long run, an Appropriations Committee legislative analysis stated the bill, if it became law, could result in an ongoing annual loss of $1.55 million in revenue for the Department of Fish and Game (DFW).
Such revenues might not be recovered even if AB 478 resulted in increased fishing participation over the long run, according to the legislative analysis.
“While this bill will result in a loss of licensing revenue to the DFW, the proponents of the bill argue, by removing the fee, more young people will be encouraged to take up fishing, and that over time this will result in an increase in the number of fishing licenses sold, potentially offsetting the loss of revenue,” the Assembly committee’s legislative analysis stated. “Whether removing the requirement for a license for 16- and 17-years olds will encourage more individuals to take up fishing is unknown.”
California residents must pay $47.01 for a fishing license this year, plus added fees for report cards and second rods.
DFW staff, according to the April 5 legislative analysis, estimates about 22,000 anglers who purchase resident fishing licenses in the state are 16 or 17 years old, the two age groups who would benefit from AB 478.
Passage of AB 478 could also result in a loss of federal revenue, according to the legislative analysis. Each state receives funding from the Sport Fish Restoration Act based upon land area and number of licensed anglers in proportion to the national total.
“The amounts apportioned to the states are adjusted so no state receives more than 5 percent or less than 1 percent of the total,” the Assembly’s legislative analysis stated. “In 2016,
California received $18,053,855, the maximum 5 percent allowed. A reduction in license sales could result in a loss of future federal funds provided to California.”
DFW might also have to absorb some costs in reprogramming its automated license data system, according to the Assembly’s legislative analysis.
Waldron introduced AB 478 in hopes of bucking a reported trend of declining fishing participation in California.
“According to the author, trends show that the significant decline in recreational fishing will continue, especially as fewer young people select fishing as a form of outdoor recreation due to the high cost of licenses,” AB 478’s most recent legislative analysis stated. “This bill raises the age requirement for fishing licenses to 18 years old, allowing minors to fish for free for an additional two years.”
AB 478 initially cleared the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee on March 21 before moving to the Appropriations Committee.
Groups in favor of AB 478 include California Aquaculture Association, California Association for Recreational Fishing, California Association of Harbor Masters and Port Captains, California Yacht Brokers Association, Mammoth Lakes Tourism, Marina Recreation Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Orange County Visitors Association, San Diego Tourism Authority and World Wide Boating Safety Group, among others.