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Bill to ease fishing guide licensing pending presidential signature

Fishing inland waters
Fishing inland waters

A bill waiting to be signed into law by President Obama contains a provision that will cut red tape for Minnesota fishing guides.  According to Rep. Jim Oberstar, under current law, any boat operator who obtains a U.S. Coast Guard certification to transport passengers must obtain a Transportation Worker Identification Card (TWIC). 
To obtain the card, guides are required to pay a $132 application fee and make two trips to a Coast Guard licensing center.  Oberstar says that has caused unnecessary paperwork and expense for many fishing guides.

“The TWIC is meant to secure our ports by identifying those who should have access to secure maritime facilities and vessels,” Oberstar.  “It was never intended to regulate a fishing guide taking out a customer in his 16 foot Lund.”

Oberstar is the chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the chief author of the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act which authorizes all of the key operations of the agency.  He included language in the bill that will exempt fishing guides and other small boat operators from the TWIC requirement. 

Earlier this year, Oberstar worked with Coast Guard officials to redesign the licensing requirements for Minnesota fishing guides and small boat operators.  This will include a more relevant test that will focus on safety issues germane to fishing guides and small boat operators.  The Coast Guard has also agreed to limit discretionary enforcement and conduct outreach to local businesses and industry groups.  

“People have the right to know that the fishing guide they hire is qualified to operate a boat safely and is able to respond to an emergency,” said Oberstar.  “But the certification process has to be relevant to the waters where the boat is operating and it can’t be unduly burdensome to the small business owner who is trying to comply with the law.”