PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management issues an urgent reminder that the deadline for renewing commercial fishing licenses is Monday, March 1, with no current opportunity to appeal the return of a late application.
"We are concerned that, with the March 1 deadline looming, more than 1,000 commercial fishermen have not yet renewed their fishing licenses," said David Borden, acting associate director of DEM's Bureau of Natural Resources. "Although we sent individual letters in early November, renewal notices in mid-December, and have issued public reminders about the absolute deadline, we have yet to hear from more than one-third of the commercial fishermen who held licenses in 2003, and time is running out."
All 2003 license holders are eligible to obtain the same licenses and endorsements in 2004. However, failure to renew an existing license by March 1 will result in the forfeiture of the right to renew it. Applications for new licenses are also due by March 1.
DEM recently tightened its regulations to clarify that late applications will be returned, with no opportunity to appeal or otherwise request reconsideration. That clarification brings the regulations into accordance with the licensing statute, which explicitly states that no new or renewed licenses may be issued to anyone who applies after the application deadline.
The statute established a firm application deadline in order to provide DEM with accurate information about the number of fishermen fishing for particular species, so that appropriate management measures, including new license opportunities for the next year, can be developed and implemented.
DEM's licensing program, developed in accordance with the new licensing statute, is designed to help prevent overfishing and restore depleted stocks, while serving to protect the interests of existing license holders and provide new license opportunities for residents.
This year, as was the case last year, there are opportunities for new licenses and endorsements in the following categories: student shellfish, 65 and over shellfish, non-quahaug shellfish, non-restricted finfish, and non-lobster crustacean. However, unlike last year, no new lobster endorsements are available. Applications for these new licenses are also due by March 1, with no appeal opportunity for applications received after that date.
The Department sent renewal notices in mid-December to all of the approximately 3,000 commercial fishermen who held licenses last year. However, applications for new and renewed licenses can be obtained at DEM's Licensing Office at 235 Promenade Street in Providence on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., or can be downloaded from DEM's website, www.state.ri.us/dem, by clicking on "Topics", then "License Fees". Commercial fishing licenses can also be renewed online with a credit card at www.RI.gov, the state's centralized web portal, for a small transaction fee that funds the privately owned and managed online service.
Those with questions about the licensing program or the application process can call DEM's Licensing Office at 222-6647.