New Fee Schedule for Florida Recreational Licenses
Beginning Oct. 1, a new fee schedule will be in effect for all recreational licenses issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
During its 2007 session, the Florida Legislature passed a bill to increase the fees for all recreational saltwater and freshwater fishing and hunting licenses. Hunting license fees were last increased in 1979 and fishing license fees in 1989.
Bob Wattendorf, who heads up marketing in the FWC's Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management, said, "When fees for fishing licenses were last increased, in 1989, gasoline cost 89 cents a gallon. But even with the new fee increases, the cost of hunting and fishing in Florida falls below the median costs for the other 49 states. Also the percentage of increase is well below the rise in the cost of living seen since 1989."
All the fees from these licenses go back into conserving fish and wildlife resources and benefit anglers and hunters.
The increased revenue, expected to total $10 million annually within four years, will not create new programs, but will offset a predicted $12.5-million deficit by 2010, said Sandra Wilson, director of finance and budget at FWC. In addition to issuing the licenses, FWC is charged with directly conserving fish and wildlife resources, and it creates and enforces rules and regulations regarding hunting and fishing in the state as well as promoting boating safety and access.
Florida remains the number-one fishing destination in the United States, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2006 national survey. In addition, Florida ranks number-one in the nation for its $11 billion generated annually through hunting, fishing and wildlife-viewing activities throughout the state.
FWC presented its findings to the Legislature earlier this year. The projected deficit would leave revenue streams for marine fisheries, freshwater fisheries and hunting in jeopardy. In addition, programs already in place, such as those for panthers, manatees and other imperiled species, would need funding to keep pace with increased costs.
FWC hired Southwick Associates, a private firm specializing in fish-and-wildlife economics, to determine the impact from an increase in fees.
"The optimal price for each sport fishing and hunting license issued was scientifically determined," Wattendorf said. "Consideration for the increase included the effect on angling and hunting participation, customer satisfaction, tourism and public support for conservation."
However, the new fees were kept to the minimum necessary to offset the projected deficit, rather than at a level that would maximize revenue. Compared to the price of movies, golf, bowling and other forms of recreation, fishing and hunting fees remain very affordable, especially when viewed as an unlimited, year-round privilege, Wattendorf said.
FWC also carefully considered the impact on federal aid for sport fishing and wildlife restoration, which comes to Florida based on the certified number of hunting and fishing license holders and size of the state. Further research consisted of consulting focus groups and surveying individual hunters and fishermen across Florida. With all of these findings before them, legislators voted to increase the fees, beginning Oct. 1. As a result, programs in danger of losing funding, such as freshwater hatcheries, law enforcement patrols and saltwater fisheries stock assessments, will be able to continue at current levels of service.
"It will allow our habitat restoration, fish stocking, law enforcement and outreach programs to continue without cuts," Wattendorf said. "We can't guarantee that some things won't be trimmed in the future, but the expectation is the license fee increases will prevent us from going backwards."
Recreational licenses may be purchased online at MyFWC.com, or by calling 1-888-FISH FLORIDA (347-4356) or 1-888-HUNT FLORIDA (486-8356), or from numerous sporting goods retailers and at tax collectors' offices. If licenses are not purchased at tax collectors' offices, additional processing fees will be applied.