I would like to share a new federal program and Web site with you named Marine Recreational Information Program, or MRIP. I strongly suggest that you visit and learn more about the saltwater registry soon to impact all of us.
Recently, NOAA launched this user friendly program, and to my knowledge is the very first step made by NOAA in educating everyday anglers.
An earlier ESPN Outdoors article this fall, Light at the end of the Tunnel, highlighted the fact that NOAA intends to communicate more effectively with everyday saltwater anglers. The landscape at NOAA appears to be changing for the better and this Web site is further proof of just that.
In reading this site, I quickly found that MRIP is an easy-to-navigate source of information covering all registry information and new data collection efforts, and registration is free for 2010.
As NOAA continues to better understand long-term sustainability of our coastal and Great Lake waterways, MRIP will evaluate the entire ecosystem rather than a single species of fish. The information collected by registrants should be timelier and much more reliable than the previous MRFFS reporting system that we are familiar with.
When reading the MRIP, it is important to note that this program provides a more comprehensive and detailed picture of the number of trips being taken by recreational anglers, the amount and species of fish they are catching, where and when those fish are being caught, and the economic impact of recreational fishing on local, regional and national economies.
When browsing through the site, please look for the 'Do I Need To Register' icon and click on their questionnaire.
This will inform you as to who should register and who does not need to register for the saltwater registry. Upon answering questions, you may ask yourself why charter boats do not need to apply or why some interior states and their anglers need to comply.
Please allow me to clarify some words and phrases that many people have asked me through the years to ease your concerns:
1. Charter and Party Boat Operators in many northeast states such as New York are required to possess a permit issued by an individual state. This permit requires all documentation of species caught and killed as well as released among other pertinent information. Although we as charter operators need a license to fish and charter in New York waterways, being registered is not required. State permit holders have been required to document data via Vessel Trip Report Forms and mailed to NMFS monthly.
2. When answering questions, please keep in mind that when targeting anadromous fish species such as river herring (blueback and alewife herring) and American shad in non-coastal state tidal waters such as Pennsylvania's Delaware River, a saltwater registration and reporting is required by each angler.
3. When in doubt, register as it is FREE in 2010.
In my opinion, the MRIP Web site should be read by every angler. It answers a number of questions as to who needs to register, offers toll free numbers to register immediately, offers video explaining how data and sampling is taken and truly provides a vehicle for the everyday angler as to the future of NOAA and our fisheries. After all, we are the beneficiaries, good or bad.
I will leave the end of this column with words directly from the NOAA site.
"NOAA Fisheries envisions MRIP as a program that is part of the best and most trusted marine data collection system available. One in which people are confident in the integrity of the information they receive, managers have the appropriate tools in hand to effectively do their critical work, and stakeholders are engaged and empowered partners in the data collection process.
At its core, MRIP is built on the recognition that no single agency can effectively safeguard our ocean resources. Rather, the effort requires the buy-in, cooperation and engagement of a broad network of stakeholders.
MRIP empowers anglers and other ocean enthusiasts to become a part of the resource management, conservation, and economic decision-making processes that impact their lives."
Editor's note: Capt. Chris Gatley can be found with his fishing clients chasing striped bass in front of the Statue of Liberty, or heading offshore to the Atlantic Ocean canyons off the NJ/NY coast for tuna. His articles on cutting-edge fishing techniques can be found in The Fisherman Magazine, and he's a regular presenter at key sports shows during the winter months (when he's not pursuing whatever he can find in East Coast rivers).