Legislature(1995 - 1996)

02/28/1996 05:13 PM FSH

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 HB 390 - KING SALMON TAGS & STAMPS/GUIDE FOR ALIEN                          
                                                                               
 Number 1101                                                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN noted that the next item of business was HB390,            
 sponsored by Representative Elton.                                            
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON moved that HB 390 be adopted for                         
 consideration.  There being no objection, it was so ordered.                  
 Representative Elton pointed out that harvests are currently capped           
 by biological constraints, including hatchery and wild production.            
 In some cases, they were also capped by political constraints,                
 which included salmon treaty issues in Southeast Alaska and the               
 different allocation decisions made by the Board of Fisheries.                
                                                                               
 Number 1163                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON explained that HB 390 adopted the game                   
 approach to trophy animals, applying it to "what could probably be            
 best defined as Alaska's premier trophy fish."  He referred to an             
 Associated Press article, dated October 31, 1995, in the committee            
 packet, which noted that in Southeast Alaska, the existing cap on             
 sport fish harvest of king salmon was in the neighborhood of                  
 40,000.  "The AP article notes that because of Pacific salmon                 
 treaty problems, we may have a cap in the range of 16,000 -                   
 26,000," he said.  He acknowledged that subsequent to the time of             
 the article, people had become a little more optimistic.  However,            
 even the optimistic scenario might mean the cap in Southeast Alaska           
 would drop from 40,000 to 30,000.  "And the problem that creates,"            
 he said, "is that right now, two out of every three king salmon               
 that are harvested in Southeast Alaska in the sport fishery are               
 harvested by nonresidents."  Taking the optimistic view, if the cap           
 dropped to 30,000, assuming no growth in the nonresident harvest,             
 there would be 27,000 kings caught by nonresidents for a 30,000               
 cap, resulting in nine out of ten being harvested by nonresidents.            
 Representative Elton stated, "I think the issue before the state              
 is:  How do you balance the needs of Alaska sport fish harvesters             
 in the king salmon fishery in Southeast, and how do you balance the           
 imperatives of the tourist industry and the nonresident harvesters            
 of king salmon in the Southeast fishery?"                                     
                                                                               
 Number 1285                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON noted that some of the same issues existed               
 outside Southeast Alaska, especially in the Cook Inlet area,                  
 including the Kenai and Mat-Su drainages.  The game animal model              
 for HB 390 provided that a nonresident coming to Alaska to harvest            
 a game animal would have to pay for the privilege.  For example,              
 the price for harvesting a Sitka black-tail deer was $150 for a               
 nonresident tag; for two deer, the price was $300.  "And a black-             
 tail is the cheapest game animal for a nonresident," Representative           
 Elton said.  "It goes up to $1100 for musk oxen."                             
                                                                               
 Number 1345                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON pointed out that the model he had proposed was           
 less stringent than the game model.  "It provides that a                      
 nonresident who comes to Alaska to fish for king salmon will buy              
 the king salmon stamp that we already have in existence," he said,            
 "and upon purchase of that king salmon stamp, would be issued one             
 king salmon tag."  A portion of that tag would be affixed to the              
 fish and a portion would be mailed back to the department along               
 with whatever data was requested.  "So, they get one tag for free,"           
 he said.  "If they want a second tag, they would have to pay $100."           
 The amounts would rise with each subsequent salmon, up to a cap of            
 $500 per salmon.                                                              
                                                                               
 Number 1407                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON said, "Essentially, what this model provides             
 is that it does not tell a nonresident they can't come up here and            
 catch a fish.  They can catch as many as they want.  They can catch           
 as many as they're catching now.  It does provide that if you want            
 to catch a second fish, thereby taking that fish out of the                   
 fishery, or out of the ... quota pool, you've got to pay, because             
 you're taking that fish away from an Alaska resident or you're                
 taking that fish away from another visitor that may happen to come            
 in June and you're here in May."                                              
                                                                               
 Number 1441                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON complimented the Department of Fish and Game             
 (ADF&G) for their work on the fiscal note for HB 390.  He noted               
 that for 1994, the harvest of king salmon by nonresidents was just            
 over 100,000 fish.  Using the assumptions from ADF&G's fiscal note            
 if HB 390 were in place, the harvest rate by nonresidents would               
 drop almost 50 percent, with nonresidents taking approximately                
 52,000 fish.  That would leave more fish available to Alaska                  
 residents.                                                                    
                                                                               
 Number 1500                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON said, "I guess the challenge in front of us is           
 to try to pick the best way we're going to handle the brick wall              
 that's in front of us.  And I think I'd probably be remiss in not             
 noting that there are other solutions."  He added, "But some of the           
 other solutions are fairly draconian and, I think, fairly harmful."           
 He referred to time and area closures, wherein ADF&G could keep the           
 catch of king salmon within a given quota.  "I think if they do               
 that, that's going to have a negative affect on, for example, the             
 visitor industry, because it would preclude a lodge, for example,             
 from selling a lodge/sport fish experience in July if they're not             
 sure that they're going to be open in July.  I don't think a lodge            
 owner is going to want to go out and book their lodge if there is             
 no clarity on whether or not that lodge is even going to be allowed           
 to take fishermen on a guided experience because they can't define            
 when the time and area closures may be," he said.                             
                                                                               
 Number 1563                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON said, "The other way of doing it is bag limit            
 restrictions."  He added, "I think that is also very destructive to           
 the visitor industry because a person that's coming up and spending           
 $3,000 for a four-day stay at a fishing lodge may not want to do              
 that if the bag limit or the possession limit is dropped                      
 dramatically.  It's going to be tough, I think, to attract somebody           
 up here for a king salmon fishing experience at a lodge, where they           
 pay $3,000 for four days, if they know that when they catch the one           
 fish on the first day, they're going to be kind of out of luck on             
 the second, third and fourth day."                                            
                                                                               
 Number 1600                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON suggested, "Another way, of course, is gear              
 restrictions.  But if you adopt gear restrictions, like outlaw the            
 use of down-riggers here in Southeast Alaska, I think you may also            
 be harming a portion of the visitor industry because it's going to            
 be very difficult to guarantee or to have a high success rate if              
 you're not using down-riggers."  He noted that a further option was           
 limited entry for sport fish guides, which had been discussed                 
 previously in committee.                                                      
                                                                               
 Number 1632                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON emphasized that HB 390 presented a reasonable            
 alternative.  "I will be frank with the committee," he said.  "I              
 have had charter boat people in beating me up and I've had lodge              
 people in beating me up, saying, `Let's do something different.'              
 The challenge that I've issued to them is, `Okay, what do you                 
 suggest?'  And we haven't come back with an alternative on what can           
 happen to avoid this brick wall.  And I think it's also fair to               
 say, as long as I'm admitting that sport fish charter guides and              
 lodge owners have beaten me up over the head, that there have been            
 some that - probably reluctant to testify in public - that have               
 said, `Yes, we either do this or I'm going to be running a lodge              
 where I'm teaching people how to cook wild fish rather than how to            
 catch wild fish, because we're going to have some problems with the           
 artificial caps and the quotas.'"                                             
                                                                               
 Number 1687                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON referred to allegations in the Cook Inlet                
 region that people were canning or preserving fish for sale in                
 Arizona or elsewhere.  "That may or may not be the case," he said.            
 "But if it is the case, I can guarantee that if they have to pay              
 $100 for the second king salmon, or $200 for the third king salmon,           
 it will not be cost-effective for them to be taking those fish                
 elsewhere and selling them."  He noted a second anecdote, which               
 revolved around the allegation that foreign visitors were taking              
 the fish out of country for sale.  "This makes it not cost-                   
 effective to do that," he emphasized.  "And I think it therefore              
 protects the resource a little bit more."  He noted that one of the           
 provisions of the bill was that nonresident alien fishermen, from             
 foreign countries, were required to have a guided sport fish                  
 experience, in the same way that nonresident alien hunters were               
 required to use game guides.  Representative Elton acknowledged               
 that there was a question about whether requiring nonresident alien           
 hunters to have a game guide was legal; that question would pertain           
 to this bill, as well.                                                        
                                                                               
 Number 1812                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON expressed that requiring game guides for                 
 nonresident aliens not only provided a stream of traffic to the               
 guides but also was good public policy because it made it more                
 difficult for foreigners to organize as a group and fly in to some            
 river "where they're acting as vacuum cleaners."                              
                                                                               
 Number 1842                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON concluded by saying he had not spoken to the             
 sponsor statement.  "I'll just let that stand as it is," he added.            
                                                                               
 Number 1870                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS asked about the current king salmon tag or               
 stamp.                                                                        
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON responded, "One of the problems, and you'll              
 see that in the course of the bill, is the king salmon stamp is               
 actually identified in statutes as a king salmon tag.  So, because            
 we're adding another tag, we're adopting what everybody calls `the            
 king salmon stamp'; we're saying that is a stamp and not a tag."              
 He added, "And the cost of the tag remains the same."                         
                                                                               
 Number 1941                                                                   
                                                                               
 JOHN BURKE, Deputy Director, Division of Sport Fish, Department of            
 Fish and Game, indicated much of his testimony would parallel that            
 of Representative Elton.  He stated:                                          
                                                                               
 "We feel the concept embodied in this legislation has merit.                  
 First, the legislation will reduce the harvest of sport-caught                
 Chinook salmon by nonresidents as well as participation by                    
 nonresident anglers in Chinook salmon fishing.  There would be                
 fewer anglers and fewer days fished by those fishermen.  This                 
 reduction would occur generally among all nonresident anglers and             
 specifically among those nonresidents who catch a large number of             
 Chinook salmon.  Because of this, the Chinook that are available to           
 sport anglers would probably be spread over a greater number of               
 anglers."                                                                     
                                                                               
 Number 1980                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. BURKE continued, "Second, through the increase in fees, the               
 nonresident anglers will increase their contribution to the                   
 management of Chinook salmon.  Stock assessment and accurate catch            
 monitoring have become very important in Chinook salmon management            
 relative to allocation of harvest and conservation.  This stretches           
 all the way to the international arena relative to the treaty, as             
 well as to local allocation conflicts in places like the Kenai                
 River.                                                                        
                                                                               
 "With a number of assumptions, and at best these are certainly                
 guesses, we estimate that the legislation would increase the Fish             
 and Game fund by about $350,000 a year, as well as diminish the               
 nonresident harvest by approximately 50 percent a year.                       
                                                                               
 "Thirdly, and to the division, this may be the most important                 
 point, the legislation helps to acknowledge Chinook salmon as a               
 special trophy fish.  There certainly are a limited number of these           
 fish available to recreational anglers and, quite frankly, there              
 are probably fewer of these fish than there are anglers who want to           
 catch them."                                                                  
                                                                               
 Number 2054                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. BURKE continued, "We believe, in a sort of general consensus,             
 that the price structure described in the legislation may be a                
 little bit steep.  At the same time, we do not feel it is our role            
 to suggest an alternative, nor would we have consensus among our              
 staff as to what that alternative might be.  There is certainly a             
 wide range of opinions amongst `Fish and Gamers,' some that would             
 charge more, some that would charge less."                                    
                                                                               
 Number 2090                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. BURKE concluded by saying, "In summary, we note the tag                   
 requirement and associated price structure would reduce                       
 participation and harvest by the nonresident segment of the sport             
 fishing population.  In this sense, this legislation is allocative.           
 Relative to the elements that would reduce the harvest and                    
 participation, we're traditionally neutral on allocative measures.            
 At the same time, there are parts of this bill that are not                   
 necessarily allocative and we certainly support the concepts -                
 those concepts - as they are embodied in this legislation,                    
 primarily, the idea of this fish as a trophy fish and spreading the           
 opportunity to harvest one over as many people as we possibly                 
 could."                                                                       
                                                                               
 Number 2144                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN referred to Representative Elton's mention of             
 a tag being attached to the fish.  He wondered where the tag would            
 be attached.  He said, "You get situations where people harvest               
 these fish and process them and freeze them, cut them, smoke them -           
 - at what point is the tag not necessary?"                                    
                                                                               
 Number 2199                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. BURKE replied he believed, the way the legislation was written,           
 that the tag would have to accompany the fish until it got to the             
 residence of the person and, in a sense, "went out of possession."            
 He added, "I'm guessing."  He supposed a processor could certify              
 that there was one fish there and attach the tag to that                      
 certification.  "It would be fairly easy, at least to propose                 
 something that would work that way," he added.                                
                                                                               
 Number 2248                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON acknowledged that Representative Ogan had                
 brought up a good point.  "It's going to be very, very difficult in           
 some cases," he said, "and the legislation does note that it must             
 remain attached to the king salmon until the king salmon is                   
 processed, consumed or removed from the state.  If somebody's                 
 putting it in a can ... it would be very difficult to know whether            
 or not you have a case of salmon that is two kings or three kings             
 or one king."  He added that was the reason for the language,                 
 "until processed."                                                            
                                                                               
 Number 2318                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN pointed out that was similar to moose or                  
 caribou the way it was written.  He expressed concern about "people           
 that show up with their RV" catching fish and then canning or                 
 freezing them.                                                                
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN asked Mr. Burke to comment on the cost                     
 associated with the tags.                                                     
                                                                               
 Number 2394                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. BURKE responded, "Personally, I've made these comments on                 
 behalf of the director, who wasn't able to be here tonight."  He              
 said, "I've spoken with a number of charter boat people also and              
 had the same response that Representative Elton has heard.  Some              
 actually favor this.  Most that do would suggest a slightly lesser            
 cost or perhaps a tag that came into play after several fish, as              
 opposed to one fish."  He mentioned that some resident fishermen,             
 particularly charter operators, resented the harvest of fish by               
 nonresidents and thought the fee schedule may be too little.  "It             
 does seem a bit steep," he said at first, adding that he personally           
 felt it was a trophy animal and therefore perhaps was not too                 
 steep.  He emphasized there was no consensus in his group.                    
                                                                               
 TAPE 96-9                                                                     
 Number 0007                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN discussed fishermen at lodges, saying, "After             
 the second fish, I think they're getting greedy.  And I think I'd             
 be more friendly to the bill if it had a graduating scale upwards             
 from two fish on, or after two fish.  Personally, that would be my            
 preference."                                                                  
                                                                               
 Number 0079                                                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN responded that he also had a problem with the              
 price tag.  He wondered if that would really cut down on the number           
 of fish being caught or would merely stop some businesses from                
 being economical.  He added, "it's going to have a tendency to                
 drive some people away from that industry."                                   
                                                                               
 Number 0109                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS thought the concept was good.  He mentioned              
 discussions around the Kenai Peninsula that the Kenai River king              
 salmon should be treated as a trophy fish, with special                       
 regulations.  He expressed concern about Mr. Burke's comment that             
 some aspects of the bill were allocative.                                     
                                                                               
 Number 0207                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON said, "it's allocative in the sense that there           
 is an economic disincentive to take `x' number of fish, but it's              
 not allocation in the sense that this doesn't stop anybody from               
 taking exactly the same amount they're taking now.  But if they               
 make that decision, there is an economic disincentive."  He                   
 expressed hesitation to call that "allocation."  He added, "I guess           
 if you're spending $3,000 for a four-day stay at a lodge, it may              
 not be as much of a disincentive as I want."                                  
                                                                               
 Number 0270                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON commented on the fee structure, saying, "I               
 would not sit here and say that the fee structure that I have in              
 the bill is the best one."  With a lower fee structure, there would           
 probably be less of an economic disincentive.  "We're picking                 
 numbers out here that we may not know exactly what the effects                
 are," he said.  "And I think in a year or two, we may want to                 
 readdress any kind of a fee structure, whatever fee structure is              
 included."                                                                    
                                                                               
 Number 0409                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON noted that Representative Ogan and Mr. Burke             
 had alluded to the fact there were different ways of structuring              
 fees.  "One of the things that may accomplish what Representative             
 Ogan wants to do is two free tags upon the purchase of a king                 
 salmon stamp by a nonresident, and then hammer them for the third,"           
 he suggested.  "I don't know, frankly, if that's a better way of              
 doing it or not, but certainly it's an alternative.  I know I would           
 object to a fee structure that went, $25, $50, $75, $100, because             
 I think that's too low."  He mentioned that $100 might be the                 
 market value of a king salmon.  If the second one were $100, that             
 would be two fish for $50 apiece.  "I picked those numbers because            
 I figure that if a Sitka black-tail is worth 150 bucks for the                
 first one, then certainly the second king is probably worth $100.             
 And that's not a very scientific way of setting a fee structure,"             
 he acknowledged.                                                              
                                                                               
 Number 0451                                                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN assigned HB 390 to a subcommittee consisting of            
 Representatives Davis and Ogan, with the former as chair of the               
 subcommittee.  He noted that HB 390 would be rescheduled for the              
 following week's meeting.  He asked that recommendations for fee              
 structures be considered and a committee substitute be drafted, if            
 possible.  He further suggested that the sponsor provide input to             
 the subcommittee.                                                             

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