State senator introduces Sportfishing Stimulus Act of 2015

By: Parimal M. Rohit

SACRAMENTO — A state senator from the Western Sierra region introduced a bill earlier this month to address a reported decline in recreational fishing participation across California.

State Sen. Tom Berryhill (R-Twain Harte) authored Senate Bill 345 (SB 345) in an attempt to revitalize recreational fishing in California. Fewer anglers participate in fishing within California than any other state in the country, according to the California Sportfishing League (CSL).

The Sportfishing Stimulus Act of 2015, which was introduced April 7, also aims to sustain outdoor recreational activities in communities dependent upon anglers and boaters to support the local economy with jobs and tourism. Fishing activists urged anglers to attend an April 28 committee hearing of the bill in Sacramento.

“California has some of the best fishing holes in the nation but some of the highest prices and antiquated regulations,” Berryhill said. “It is no wonder we come in dead last nationally on the percentage of people actually fishing. Those numbers keep slipping too. You have got to ask yourself why a state with thousands of miles of coastline, lakes, rivers and ponds is experiencing such a steep decline in an activity. Price and convenience come to mind. Making licenses more affordable, practical and convenient is one step we can take right now to begin reversing that trend.”

Berryhill, who identified himself as a “lifelong sportfishing enthusiast,” said the Sportfishing Stimulus Act of 2015 would protect jobs supported by recreational fishing, increase tourism dollars and maintain revenue for habitat restoration and protection.

The bill also proposed to do away with the state’s practice of issuing fishing licenses on a calendar year basis, where the license expires Dec. 31 regardless of date purchased. Instead, fishing licenses would be valid for 12 consecutive months from the day it was purchased.

Charitable organizations would also benefit from SB 345. Whenever an angler catches fish for charity, the charitable group receiving the catch would be granted an exception to exceed possession limits and not be fined by the state.

Finally, young anglers could be offered a reduced-cost junior fishing license at a base price of $8.25 if SB 345 becomes law.

CSL published a study in March citing statistics from the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), which showed the number of annual fishing licenses sold in California declined from about 2.26 million in 1980 to an estimated 990,000 annual permit sales in 2014. DFW also estimated about 40,000 fewer annual resident licenses were sold in 2014 compared to 2013.

The number of fishing licenses issued within California could drop another 47 percent in the next 10 to 15 years if the current trend continued, CSL estimated.

The U.S. Census recently reported about 5 percent of the state’s population participated in fishing despite California being home to the third longest coastline and largest population in the United States. CSL added California is home to more than 4,000 lakes and reservoirs in the state, plus the Pacific Ocean and thousands of rivers and streams.

“The decline in the state’s fishing participation rate reflects the fact that California fishing licenses are among the costliest in the country and, remarkably, are not valid for a full 12 months,” CSL President David Dickerson said. “If a resident’s car registration is valid for a full 12 months, then fishing licenses should be, too.”

Marko Mlikotin, executive director of CSL, previously told The Log the recreational fishing industry annually contributes more than $4.9 billion to California’s economy.

Assemblyman Frank Bigelow (R-Fresno) co-authored SB 345.

“Recreational fishing has a tremendous impact on our local economy and tax base, contributing billions of dollars to our tourism industry. SB 345 will ensure that our communities can continue to provide premier tourism and recreation experiences for all Californians,” Bigelow said.

SB 345 is set to be heard April 28 in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources. Stay tuned to FishRap and The Log as the bill moves through the legislature.

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