A bill proposed by Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, and Sen. James Beach, D-Camden that would reduce potential penalties associated with the new state fishing registry awaits Gov. Chris Christie’s approval.

“The purpose of creating the state registry was to prevent individuals from having to pay a $15 federal fee to fish,” Van Drew said in a press release Friday. “Imposing an initial fine of up to $3,000 for failing to register with this free database is completely unacceptable.”

The bill was approved by the Senate in June; the Assembly gave final approval on Thursday.

The state introduced the registry in May for recreational saltwalter anglers.

Under the registry — as structured by the state Department of Environmental Protection — anyone caught fishing without the proper documentation could face a fine between $300 and $3,000 for a first offense and between $500 and $5,000 for subsequent offenses.

Van Drew said the bill “scales back the penalities for noncompliance significantly.”

The proposed bill would make a first fine $25 and subsequent fines $50 for individuals. Operators of federally permitted or state-licensed for-hire vessels that fail to comply will face a $100 fine for first offenses and $200 for subsequent offenses.

“The goal now is to ensure that people are familiar with the requirement to register, which we are addressing by placing program information in bait and tackle shops across the state,” Van Drew said.

In addition to the bill proposing fine reductions, the bill would require DEP to “launch a public awareness campaign to inform residents and tourists of the registry program,” reads the press release.

“The registry is used to collecting information from anglers so that research can be conducted on how best to sustain our fisheries,” Beach said. “There’s no question that compliance with the program is important, but the fines implemented by the state are overly harsh.”

Contact Caitlin Dineen:

609-272-7247

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