AUGUSTA — Gov. John Baldacci has signed into law a bill creating a saltwater recreational fishing registry, ending a four-year debate over the issue.

The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2011, meets a federal mandate for states to set up their own registries this year or face having a federal registry with fees next year.

Under the bill Baldacci signed today, the registry is free with the purchase of a freshwater fishing license. Striped bass endorsements will cost $5 for residents who do not have freshwater licenses, and $15 for all nonresidents. Fees for commercial operator’s licenses, including charters and smelt camps, are $50.

The sponsor, Rep. Leila Percy, D-Phippsburg, said lawmakers tried to fashion a bill that minimizes the impact on Mainers. The bill’s expected to generate $1.7 million.

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