Legislature(1993 - 1994)
05/04/1994 03:00 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CSSB 316(RES) - AN ACT RELATING TO FISHING VIOLATIONS Number 027 DAVE THOMPSON, Aide to Senator Halford, Chief sponsor of SB 316, explained that the Senator had drafted a Committee Substitute for the Judiciary Committee's consideration. It basically strips everything that was in the bill, save for Section 1, which is the fines section. All it would do would be to up the fines from the current $3,000 - $6,000 to a maximum of $6,000 - $12,000. Everything else in the bill has been stripped out. CHAIRMAN PORTER said after the testimony we received last time we heard the bill, language concerning the suspended and revoked licenses is no longer in the bill. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES asked Mr. Thompson about one of the things we had in testimony with the original bill. She asked if he knew whether there was an agreement with the Division to create a physical line of buoys in the water, or are they going to forget it because we are forgetting it? Number 070 MR. THOMPSON said Mr. Swackhammer might be able to answer that question a little more directly, but Mr. Swackhammer was not in the room at the moment. He did know, after Representative Phillips focused on that particular part of it, the Department of Public Safety had previously discussed it. The two issues from the department's mind were, one, that kind of activity would be undertaken, not by Public Safety, but rather Fish and Game. Secondly, the cost factor; that line is about five miles long, and depending on how far you were to space buoys, it could be a fairly expensive project. There were also concerns over the possibility of being able to get that done this year. Those were the kind of responses we got when we inquired about that. Number 093 CHAIRMAN PORTER noted that the actual establishment of a buoy line as opposed to a (indiscernible) line, is the responsibility of the Department of Fish and Game, not the Department of Public Safety. The committee had decided that when we take action on the bill, we will send a letter to the Department of Fish and Game asking them to strongly establish that as a buoy line. Number 104 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES's concern was that the buoy line is not even involved in the bill, so it would be kind of ridiculous to send along a message that has nothing to do with the bill anymore. Number 110 CHAIRMAN PORTER said he guessed we could not do it, but that would not help. So we will continue to send a letter. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES agreed that would be fine, and they would continue to do that. Number 120 DEAN PADDOCK spoke on behalf of the Bristol Bay Driftnetters Association, which is one of the fishermen's organizations of Bristol Bay. We concur that there is indeed a problem there at the North Egegik line. We welcome any opportunity where we can address that problem, especially if we can reach some sort of a solution. We do appreciate the concerns which bring us here. He said he had been directed by many of his members to do something about the North Egegik line. He had also been told by many of his members what is proposed here today, is not really going to accomplish what the sponsor had hoped it would accomplish. He said he was not trying to run interference for a bunch of scoff laws. He wondered if the committee was wondering if he had something at stake. He took the opportunity to pass on that he refuses to fish the North Egegik line. In twenty years in Bristol Bay, he has yet to receive a warning. We are aware Senator Halford's legislation is intended, of course, for Egegik, but one of our problems is it covers the whole state. Even so, we might support it if we felt it would actually accomplish something. Mr. Paddock does not think it will, and explained why he felt that way. He displayed a chart of the district, showing that the tide is falling, because the fish are coming into the district at that one spot, it is changing very rapidly. He also had an aerial photograph. Going by the chart, he disagreed that the line is not five miles, it is a couple of miles at high tide, but it is fished all the way down to low tide, at which time it is less than a mile. He said this problem at this place has been exacerbated, because the regulations have pushed the fishermen into a shrinking area. The red line on the chart is our present district. Former districts were larger. He only showed the most recent one, prior to the latest restriction. In the photograph, the yellow lines show the present boundaries. Unfortunately, the fishermen do not have any yellow lines out there to see. The red shaded portion of the photograph is sort of a fuzzy area. You have been exposed to the background that this is a LORAN boundary. We are aware of some of the deficiencies of LORAN equipment in precisely marking a district, it falls far short of being a razor edge, so there is sort of a fuzzy area there; and fishermen, being the competitive creatures that they are, will do their darnedest to get outside of the next guy. MR. PADDOCK stated for years we have felt this should be marked visually. We have not been able to get the Board of Fisheries to do that in the past because of some personalities that are involved, both in the Department of Fish and Game, and in the Department of Public Safety. Both of those personalities are no longer with us, and today we have concurrence from Colonel Valentine of the Fish and Wildlife Protection Division that he believes this should be marked visually; and Director Koenings from the Department of Fish and Game believes this should be marked visually. He urged the committee to allow the Board of Fisheries to have another crack at this. They will be addressing it in this very next Board cycle, in January of 1995. We probably cannot get anything in place for 1994, but this problem has been with us for a number of years. MR. PADDOCK said it has also been exacerbated by the fact that we have had increased returns to the Egegik District in recent years. As a long time biologist in that area, Mr. Paddock does not really expect those big returns to last forever. It sure would be great if they would. Dr. Matieson, from the University, who is sort of the Dean of Bristol Bay fish scientists, if not Alaskan fish scientists; also agrees that this is a short time thing, and it is going to go away. Mr. Paddock said he would hate to see the fishermen of the entire state of Alaska saddled with extremely punitive penalties because of the fact that we have not been able to deal with this boundary line by regulation in an adequate manner. MR. PADDOCK once again asked the committee to give the Board an opportunity to do this, rather than doing it legislatively. We may be back here next year, asking you folks to consider some of the things, at least to some degree that were extracted from this present committee substitute, because we agree that for one fisherman to accumulate 18 violations, most of which occurred right at this spot, is not really something we can accept. Mr. Paddock has been told that we have got to do something about it. He supported the bill if he felt it would indeed answer the goal it appears to have in mind. REPRESENTATIVE NORDLUND stated that he is a setnetter out in Bristol Bay, but he did spend the summer on a drift-boat and fished Egegik, and we were in a fiberglass boat, and we were fishing on the line. He said he had never been as scared of losing his life as he was on that North line at Egegik. He appreciated the fact that Mr. Paddock requested we do a visual marking, and he requested the committee send along a letter of intent, encouraging the visual line. He also said he thought it important that the legislature send a message that line violations should be taken seriously. It seemed to him, given the value of the catch in some cases, especially in Egegik, that these increases are not that great. He personally does not oppose them. Number 330 MR. PADDOCK responded this supposed increase is a heck of a tool to the Department of Law,and the Department of Public Safety. He described it to be like a kid with a hammer. If you give him a hammer, everything he sees looks like a nail. Once again, this is a statewide statute where we are concerned with something that is fairly localized. He said he hated to see Bristol Bay be the focus of something that develops into a statewide tool which is supposedly maximums. Maximums have a way of growing, just the way cute little kittens have a way of growing up to be lions and tigers. He did not agree that this would be good policy, good legislation. Number 355 JERRY MCCUNE, President of United Fishermen of Alaska stated that he has had the Board members look the bill over, and the majority of the UFA Board agrees with the present form of the bill, and thanks Senator Halford for dropping all the other portions they had a problem with. We appreciate that, so as far as he could tell, the majority of the groups at UFA support the current bill. Number 370 KATE TROLL, Executive Director of Southeast Alaska Seiners said her Board of Directors looked at the original SB 316, and voted to support it. We do have to support cleaning up our industry, even though this is not targeted to our area. We felt, on principle, in support of that notion. Then when the CS came out, we were very concerned about all the change of evidence, and penalizing potentially very innocent fishermen, and we, like other fishing groups, (indiscernible) to try and take out those parts that really bothered us, but now we are back to just a portion, which was in the original bill, and with that, she wanted to let the committee know they currently do support the CS as written for SB 316. ROSELEEN MOORE (SNOOKS), fisherwoman of Homer opposed SB 316. She thought it would severely hurt many fishermen. She believed this legislation was created for only one area. She explained that on the Egegik line, 600 - 800 boats have to take turns setting nets on top of each other, and the fining will not change this problem. The change needs to be made in the way this line is fished. Number 430 DAN HENNICK, Homer resident, opposed the bill. He stated that it serves no purpose. A $12,000 fine could be a whole season's income. Fish and Game and Public Safety should be required to create a physical line. He believed the bill should die in committee. Number 534 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIDSON agreed with Mr. Hennick. Without a greater enforcement presence, it seems we are not really serious as far as getting the job done out there. It seems there might be technological capabilities, or opportunities we could use to shoot a line and do a better job of enforcement in that way. He said he would vote against moving the bill out of committee, because doubling these penalties at a time when the fish prices are like they are, we know for a fact that often times, because of inadequate enforcement efforts and overtaxed enforcement presence, sometimes injustice is done, and $6,000 or $12,000 could negatively impact a lot of the fishermen's livelihoods. He urged his colleagues in this committee to put their money where there vote is, and try to get some enforcement dollars out there to make an honest effort to deal with the problem, instead of trying to create the policing activities by the industry itself, and so he felt the bill should stay in committee a little longer until they make sure they measure their true commitment to enforcement of the law. Number 565 REPRESENTATIVE KOTT moved HCS for CSSB 316 for purposes of discussing the CS. CHAIRMAN PORTER asked if there was objection on the motion to adopt the HCS for CSSB 316, dated 4-28-94. Seeing no objection, he announced they now had the bill in front of them for discussion. Number 570 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said she had not heard any argument as to why these fines need to be raised. She has listened to lots and lots of testimony, and she has not heard any argument as to why they need to be so high. She thought the problem, that was a major part of the original bill had no solution in the CS. The CS deals only with raising the fines. She agreed with Representative Davidson in that the higher you raise the "no more than" fees, the higher all the fines under it are raised. She thought raising the maximum limit would make all other penalties unnecessarily higher. She was not comfortable with moving the bill until she could hear some real good reasons why they need to raise these fines. CHAIRMAN PORTER responded to Representative James's concerns. He said the north Egegik line has the potential for a considerable amount of take in one set, and an awful lot of fish. There was discussion during the first presentation that when the prices were up, there were fishermen who were consciously going over the line, because the risk of the catch was so low, that if they did get nailed, the fine was not sufficient to deter. The original version contained what could be considered a real hammer, in terms of deterrent effect on not violating. What he liked is the fact that this CS represents a compromise that Jerry and his fishermen have bought into, and some of the others. On an individual basis, based on how much the catch was, and the individual violation, it allows a judge to look at that individual situation and see if it might have been intentional; and it might have been with this profit motive involved. Consequently, this would justify a higher fine. Again, this is a maximum. To use an analogy, we see an awful lot of signs around saying there is a $1,000 fine for littering, but there is probably nobody who has every been fined $1,000 for littering, unless they took a garbage truck out and intentionally dumped it in a lot. That is why there needs to be flexibility in fines, so when an exceptional situation occurs, you have the option of an exceptional penalty as well. Number 620 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES thought Chairman Porter was putting an awful lot of faith in the court system. She had heard testimony that the court system was not very dependable. Number 630 CHAIRMAN PORTER said he thought there was some implicit notion that they have to have some degree of faith in the system, or maybe they should repeal everything. Number 632 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said there was a problem with the section stating this is for the whole state on every issue. She thinks it is really to broad. If they want to make the fine reflect the violation, and we put that in statute, she would be more comfortable in saying that. Certainly, she looked, and having been from the timber industry, she knows for cutting trees that are over the line, the fine is three times the value of the tree. She asked why they could not have something like that, instead of having it just be this great big, not more than, that is just at the whim of whomever wants to charge it. Number 645 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIDSON concurred with Representative James's remarks. He thought they had the little kitty that is going to turn into a monster cat. He felt they were going to do a lot of damage to a lot of livelihoods. He said if we are not going to do the program justice by giving the resources to the enforcement people in the first place, why would this help? Number 660 CHAIRMAN PORTER recognized that this does not propose to be the specific answer to this specific problem we are dealing with, although it certainly is the intention of the committee to write the letter we have discussed regarding the buoy line. It is very encouraging to hear that Colonel Valentine, who I spoke to and Deputy Commissioner Swackhammer, are here to confirm that; and now the appropriate division of Fish and Game is interested in working together to establish that line in that fashion. That, speaks even more to the fact that it would be appropriate to have this level of fine available, because if they are able to establish a buoy line, and then there is a violation, that is somebody who needs to get their attention. Number 665 REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS move to pass HCS CSSB 316 out of committee with individual recommendations. ROLL CALL VOTE Representative Brian Porter Y Representative Jeannette James N Representative Gail Phillips Y Representative Pete Kott Y Representative Joe Green Y Representative Cliff Davidson N Representative Jim Nordlund Y HCS CSSB 316 was voted out of committee, 5 - 2. REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS moved to add the letter of intent to the bill. ROLL CALL VOTE Representative Brian Porter Y Representative Jeannette James Y Representative Gail Phillips Y Representative Pete Kott Y Representative Joe Green Y Representative Cliff Davidson N Representative Jim Nordlund Y The committee moved the letter of intent with a 6 - 1 vote.