How Massachusetts Spends Saltwater Fishing Permit Funds

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New England Boating recently reached out to the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (aka, MarineFisheries) to find out how our saltwater fishing permit funds were being spent. The license, which was instated in 2011, generates around $1.2 million per year, but many anglers remain in the dark about where the money goes and what it’s used for.

To shed light on the permit fund, Michael Armstrong, Assistant Director of MarineFisheries, was kind enough to provide us with the following information, as well as some background on the license fund:

The Massachusetts saltwater permit generates about $1.2 million per year, and all revenue is placed in a dedicated state fund that, by law, can only be used for the enhancement of saltwater recreational fisheries. The spending of this money is overseen by a citizen board called the Recreational Fisheries Development Panel, which considers various projects and helps decide where it thinks the money would be best spent.

The saltwater permits funds several new initiatives within the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, including a Fishing Access Project; an Information & Education Project; enhanced sampling in the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP); an Artificial Reef Project; a stock assessment biologist dedicated to recreationally important species; and increased staff on the Diadromous Fish Project. Each of these is briefly described below.

Fishing Access

A third of all permit fees generated annually is dedicated to increasing public access to saltwater fishing. MarineFisheries works closely with the Office of Fishing and Boating Access to enhance public access opportunities throughout the Commonwealth. To date, the following projects have been initiated and/or completed with the financial assistance of saltwater permit funds:

  • Wilbur Park Fishing Pier (Yarmouth)
  • Oak Bluffs Fishing Pier, (Oak Bluffs)
  • Scusset Fishing Pier, (Sandwich)
  • Cashman Park Fishing Pier (Newburyport)
  • Craven’s Landing (Sandwich)
  • Popponesset Beach (Mashpee)
  • Dogfish Bar (Aquinnah)
  • Route 88 Boat Ramp (Westport)

In addition, a “small grants” program was established for towns to enhance fishing access. Since its inception, this program has awarded almost $50,000 to 8 towns (Duxbury, Eastham, Fall River, Marshfield, Quincy, Rockport, Swansea, and Weymouth) for projects ranging from the addition of lighting, fillet tables, and running water for existing facilities to the creation of a completely new access site.

Marine Recreational Information Program

Since 1983, recreational fisheries catch and harvest data have been collected along the Atlantic Coast through the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP). With funding from the saltwater permit, MarineFisheries assumed the shore-side sampling of all fishing modes (charter vessels, shore anglers, and private vessel anglers) in 2013. In doing so, the number of interviews was greatly increased, resulting in significantly improved precision and accuracy of catch estimates for recreational finfish species. Massachusetts now has the highest number of interviews after only Florida and North Carolina, ensuring that stock assessments and management are based on the best data possible.

Information & Education Project

The funding from the saltwater permit allowed MarineFisheries to hire staff to create and I&E project. Project goals are to increase the public’s awareness of saltwater fishing opportunities, provide instruction in fishing techniques, and provide information on the local finfish species and awareness of various conservation efforts. In 2014, MarineFisheries initiated its “Let’s Go Fishing!” youth fishing clinics. It also provided small grants so that fishing clubs can sponsor their own fishing clinics.

Information gathered through MarineFisheries research are available in a variety of ways. The division publishes materials for every age group, ranging from Technical Reports to coloring books. MarineFisheries has a presence at fishing, boating, and outdoor events annually throughout the state. You can also follow the division via twitter, YouTube, and flickr.

Diadromous Project

Funding from the recreational permit allowed MarineFisheries to hire 2 additional fisheries biologists with specialties in anadromous species (i.e., river herring), doubling the size of the Diadromous Project. This greatly enhanced are ability to conduct research and restore these important forage species. One of the objectives of the Diadromous Project is to monitor several species diadromous fish stocks in Massachusetts with special emphasis on river herring. To enhance the division’s ability to effectively monitor and ultimately restore river herring, new video and electronic counting systems were installed in the Charles River (Boston), Nemasket River (Middleboro), Mill River (Taunton), Back River (Weymouth), and Parker River (Newbury). Staff are conducting research projects that provide information on the productivity of spawning grounds, the efficacy of various restoration techniques, means to increase fish passage at dams, and the effect of bycatch in ocean fisheries.

Stock Assessment Biologist

License funds allowed MassFisheries to hire a stock assessment biologist to work on species of special interest to the recreational fishing community, including fluke, scup, black seabass, bluefish, winter flounder and tautog. This individual provides analyses that greatly contribute to improved management and sustainability of these species.

Artificial Reef Project

This small project monitors current artificial reefs, identifies sites for new reefs, and provides technical assistance to groups/municipalities that seek to place reefs in Massachusetts waters.