BlogMay 2024

Among The Benefits of Boat Registration: Better and Safer Boating

Among The Benefits of Boat Registration: Better and Safer Boating

By Ken Schultz

May 29, 2024

These activities and programs make boating safer and a better experience for everyone and are some of the benefits of boat registration fees.

No one is a fan of paying fees for the pleasure of fishing and boating, but you may not be aware that in so doing some of the revenue generated goes to make these recreational pursuits safer, more accessible, and well managed. The benefits of boat registration are a good example. Unfortunately, the websites of the state agencies that administer boat registrations rarely have information about how collected funds are used.

About Registration

If you’re new to boating, you might wonder why must I register a boat?, but you’ve probably already registered a car and understand that some portion of your DMV fees go to traffic or road management, law enforcement, and public education. Maybe you also buy a special plate that goes to a conservation organization that you wish to support.

Likewise in boating, each state has requirements for boat registration, usually for motorized craft, along with regulations for safe boat operation. In most cases, successful completion of a boating safety course is mandatory for such registration, and for those who would operate a boat. Registrations need to be renewed annually or bi-annually.

What Are the Benefits of Boat Registration?

Most states specify in their statutes how collected boat registration fees are to be allocated. This may differ among states. Some of the collected funds may be redistributed to counties for boating-related purposes. Here’s a review of the usual allocations, and how boaters benefit.

• Safety and Education Programs. The highlight of state boating programs is boater education and outreach. This takes many forms, including boating safety courses, development of educational materials regarding navigation, safety equipment, pollution, interaction with the environment (such as seagrass scarring), and interactions with marine mammals (manatees, whales, etc.). Such education results in safer boaters and better boating experiences.

• Public Access. No other country has as much public access to its waterways as does the United States. Acquiring and developing sites for public access to waterways is key to this and is one of the best possible benefits of boat registration.

• Infrastructure Maintenance. Periodic maintenance of public access sites, especially boat ramps (launches), is necessary and funds from registration fees may be available to do this without having to rely on legislative appropriations.

• Law Enforcement. Marine law enforcement agencies are necessary to ensure safe boating, compliance with regulations, and monitoring or preventing illegal activities, including pollution.

• Navigational Maintenance. Channel markers and other waterway markers are sometimes maintained by state or local agencies. Florida, for example, allocates funds back to counties for this purpose.

• Environmental Cleanup/Monitoring. The removal of derelict boats or hazards to navigation, and the monitoring of invasive species transportation via boats, are among the activities of state boating agencies funded by boat registration fees.

• Water Rescue Services. Some state boating agencies provide training for water rescue operations. The Pennsylvania Boat and Fish Commission, for example, has the largest water rescue training program in the U.S, and has trained over 75,000 fire and rescue personnel in water and ice rescue activities. Search and rescue may also be part of this.

These are some of the benefits of boat registration you may not have known about, and which you might think of the next time you renew your boat registration.

Ken Schultz
Ken Schultz
Ken Schultz was a longtime staff writer for Field & Stream magazine and is the former Fishing Editor of He’s written and photographed nineteen books on sportfishing topics, plus an annual fishing tips calendar, and his writing has appeared on various websites for more than two decades. His author website is