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It’s no secret the federal government is running a big deficit these days. And in so recognizing our patriotic duty to bail out Washington, here is a plan to help balance the books.

Let’s have the Fisheries Service of NOAA require all recreational saltwater anglers who fish in federal ocean waters to register before they go fishing! Now, let’s see – that would whack an estimated 14 million anglers at, say, $25 per person. Wow, that should raise some real money. But wait, we’re on a roll -- let’s not stop there.

Let’s also register all spearfishers. There are bunches of them. And, while NOAA’s reeling in these bucks, here’s another beauty: Register everyone who may catch anadromous species anywhere. That’s fish like striped bass, salmon and shad that spawn in rivers and streams and spend their adult lives in estuaries and the ocean. Boy, there’s a cash cow!

By now, I’d guess some of you are thinking: “Send Schultz out for random drug testing!” Wait, I didn’t say these were my ideas, but they are very real. In fact, hold on to your seat -- NOAA has actually proposed these and wants to implement this registration requirement for next year!

What’s behind all this? The National Academy of Science's National Research Council advised NOAA's Fisheries Service in 2006 to redesign its surveys of recreational fishermen for more accuracy, precision, and transparency. The NRC's review resulted in more than 200 recommendations for improving marine recreational surveys, including establishing a national database of saltwater anglers. NOAA claims this recommendation meets requirements in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the primary fisheries law for U.S. ocean waters that was reauthorized in 2007.

But is national registration really necessary?

After all, for the last 28 years, NOAA's Fisheries Service has conducted recreational fishing surveys through random telephone interviews in coastal counties. In addition, NOAA’s regional and state partners conduct extensive dockside interviews to obtain data on catches. Moreover, accurate surveys of everything from soap flakes to sex practices are undertaken every day in America without some national registration requirement. So, is it that NOAA’s done a lousy job for 28 years or is it that NOAA can’t do what so many others routinely can. Or, is this simply another intrusive and unnecessary federal program that should be sent to the deep six?

NOAA's Fisheries Service is seeking comment on a proposed rule until Aug. 11. I’ll bet you can figure what mine will be! To read the proposed rule for yourself, go to: www.countmyfish.noaa.gov. Comments can be submitted electronically at www.regulations.gov

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