Legislature(1993 - 1994)

05/04/1994 03:00 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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                     
  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                 
  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                           
  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                     
  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                           
  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.                  

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