License Fees to Increase Jan. 1

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Fishing and hunting license fees, which are used to pay for managing fish and wildlife populations and their unique habitats, are scheduled to increase Jan. 1, 2004, the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) announced.

The sweeping fee increase (details below) will affect all those who hunt or fish in California. It is part of the 2003-2004 fiscal-year budget, which was passed in August by the state Legislature.

"The additional revenue generated through license sales will help the Department pay for the increasing costs associated with conserving and protecting fish and game resources and their habitats," said DFG Acting Director Sonke Mastrup. "Our many roles in managing wildlife are far more expensive than they were a decade ago. And we needed to bring license fees in line with our costs to effectively manage these public resources."

DFG has not had a sweeping license fee increase since 1987. Since then, the Department has only adjusted license fees according to the state's cost-of-living as prescribed by Fish and Game Code.

"License fees essentially pay dividends to wildlife and the public who value their wide variety of uses," said Renee Renwick, acting deputy director of DFG's Fiscal Administration Division. "Increasing these fees is a way for us to maintain our efforts and meet the demands of conserving wildlife and preserving their habitats."

Fishing and hunting license fees, along with other funding, enables the Department to perform its mission - to manage California's diverse fish, wildlife, and plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend, for their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the public.

California's vast and complex inland and ocean fisheries, for example, require intensive management efforts by the Department's resource managers and staff. From freshwater species to marine fishes, invertebrates and anadromous species, California is home to a diversity of fisheries and ecosystems that require costly management efforts.

In addition to more traditional roles in managing recreational opportunities, DFG is conducting more wildlife population assessments, environmental impact reports, and intensive restoration processes for wildlife - all of which is largely paid for with funds generated through license sales.

Fishing license fee changes that take effect Jan. 1, 2004 include the following:

- Eliminating the annual "Pacific Ocean Only" sport fishing license, which was $17.25.

- The annual Resident Sport Fishing License, which is valid in inland and ocean waters, increased from $29.25 to $31.25.

- The annual Nonresident Sport Fishing License increased from $78.50 to $84.

- The one-day "Pacific Ocean Only" sport fishing license was eliminated, which was $6.25.

- Anglers can now purchase a One-Day Sport Fishing License for $10 that is valid in both inland and ocean waters. (Anglers do not have to buy an ocean enhancement stamp with the purchase of this license).

- The 10-Day Nonresident Sport Fishing License fee increased from $29.25 to $31.25.

- A Two-Day Sport Fishing License will also be available again and increased from $10.50 to $15.75. It is valid in all waters. The two-day license, like the one-day license, is exempt from ocean enhancement stamp requirements.

Stamp and report card changes include the following:

- The Striped Bass Stamp will no longer be required. Legislation authorizing the Striped Bass Stamp Program expires Dec. 31.

- The Ocean Enhancement Stamp fee increased to $3.50 for saltwater anglers south of Point Arguello (Santa Barbara County). The Ocean Enhancement Stamp fee was established in 1995 at $2.50, and has not been adjusted to the cost-of-living index since then. Funding generated from this stamp is used for hatchery production, research, and restoration projects for affected marine sport fish such as white seabass.

- The Bay-Delta Sport Fishing Enhancement Stamp will sell for $5 and fund a new program aimed at system-wide, sport fishery enhancement. Funds from the sale of this new stamp are de dicated for projects that enhance sport fishing in the San Francisco Bay and Delta.

- The Steelhead Report Card fee increased from $3.75 to $5. This fee was established at $3 in 1993. Funds from the sale of Steelhead Report Cards are used to monitor and restore California's steelhead populations. Typical projects include assessing angler harvest, restoring spawning and rearing habitat, securing adequate flows, and removing barriers to migration.

- The Abalone Report Card increased from $12 to $15. Divers are required to have a Sport Fishing License and an abalone report card. Revenue generated from this report card is used for abalone restoration projects throughout the state.

Hunting license and tag fee increases that take effect July 1 include the following:

- The California Resident Hunting License increased from $29.75 to 31.25.

- A Nonresident Hunting License increased from $103.50 to $108.50.

- A Junior Hunting License for both residents and nonresidents went from $7.25 to $8.25 (under 16 at the time of purchase).

- The Two-Day Nonresident Hunting License fee is now equal to the annual Resident Hunting License fee and increased from $29 to $31.25.

- A Resident Wild Pig Tag increased from $8.75 for a book of five to $15 each, which are sold individually. The wild pig tag fee was increased to a fee that is more consistent with other big game tag fees. Funding generated from these tags is used for a dedicated fund for wild pig management.

- A Nonresident Wild Pig Tag increased from 13.25 to $50 (just one tag, not a book).

Business licensees will also face fee increases in 2004, including fees for commercial fishing licenses, commercial fish businesses, guides and aquaculturists.

Fees for lifetime hunting and fishing licenses will also increase Jan. 1, 2004. DFG is urging prospective buyers to purchase these licenses before Dec. 31 to receive the current rate. The Lifetime License fee is based on the age of the person at the time of the purchase.