Attempt to reform California’s sportfishing license regime dies again

State Senate will not hear legislation to change license system from 12-month scheme to 365-day license.

SACRAMENTO—California’s anglers just can’t catch a legislative break. The State Senate won’t be hearing a proposal to change California’s fishing license infrastructure from a 12-month scheme to 365-day program. Assembly Bill 1387 (AB 1387), which was proposed by Assembly member Jim Wood, D-Santa Rosa, was taken off the docket for this legislative session due to Covid-19.

State legislators have engaged in a limited legislative session due to the Covid-19 pandemic, only taking on matters deemed essential or urgent. AB 1387 was not considered to be an essential or urgent.

Wood, however, said he would re-introduce the 365-day fishing license proposal once the 2021-2022 legislative session kicks off early next year. He added he intends to keep the implementation date proposed in AB 1387.

“I have every intention of re-introducing a 365-day fishing license bill next year that aims to introduce many more Californians to the great outdoors,” Wood said in a released statement. “I look forward to working with the California anglers and the recreational boating industry and many others, to bring about meaningful reform soon.”

Wood is the latest state lawmaker to try to change California’s 12-month fishing license scheme and replace it with a 365-day license system. State Sen. Tom Berryhill made three attempts at fishing license reform before retiring from the legislature (due to term limits). Each attempt failed to make it out of the state legislature.

Marko Mlikotin, executive director of the California Sportfishing League, expressed disappointment in AB 1387 failing to make it to the governor’s desk this year.

“California anglers have every reason to be disappointed that fishing license reform will not come in 2020. For decades, California’s costly and antiquated fishing license program has contributed to declining fishing participation rates and fewer economic benefits for communities and jobs dependent on outdoor recreation,” Mlikotin said. “States that offer anglers a license that provide a full 12-months of fishing from the date of purchase have experienced increased license sales and revenue.

“Unfortunately, this pandemic killed reform, but it was not due to a lack of support,” Mlikotin continued. “Over 70 state and national organizations supported Assembly Bill 1837 and as part of plan to improve fishing and hunting licensing programs, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife recommended transitioning the state to a 365-day license.”

Supporters of fishing license reform have long contended California’s 12-month license scheme has contributed to decline angling rates within the state. The California Sportfishing League stated annual resident sportfishing license sales have declined by 55 percent since 1980, despite California’s population increasing by more than 60 percent in the same span.

An annual fishing license bought in California expires on Dec. 31, regardless of when it was purchased. Most licenses are purchased in the first quarter of any given year, and then declines from that point forward, according to the state’s data.

Berryhill and Wood have been proposing to shift the licensing scheme to allow an annual license to be valid for one full year, regardless of when it was purchased.

AB 1387 had made it out of the State Assembly unanimously and was in the State Senate for deliberation. The bill originally proposed to shift away from the 12-month licensing scheme and implement the 365-day license structure as early as Jan. 1, 2021.

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