Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/20/1996 01:10 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HJR 51 - SPORT FISHING GUIDE LIMITED ENTRY Number 130 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN presented the House Joint Resolution 51 which provides for a clarification regarding the mixed signals from the court that says the state is not restricted from limiting the entry of a fishery. The language as is now enumerated in state statute covers sport fish guiding, as well as, commercial guiding. It has been rendered that commercial guides can be limited and there is some legal opinion which says that this applies to sport fishing as well. Others say that this won't stand muster and that some clarification must be outlined. This resolution adds the description that sport fish guiding as a profession is one that the state is not restricted from limiting on a limited entry basis. Number 202 GARY HULL testified by teleconference from Kenai. He stated that he was in favor of HJR 51 and noted a real need for limited entry on the amount of guides, especially in certain areas such as the Kenai. He noted that there are probably areas which don't need regulation at this time. Mr. Hull urged this resolution be placed on the ballot. Number 246 JAMES FITZGERALD testified by teleconference from Kenai. He stated that he wasn't a guide, but his wife was. They both agree that something should be done with the guide situation, especially on the Kenai in July. The only thing they do ask is that if a number of guides is set, to do so by attrition, rather than on an arbitrary basis. This way it would be fair to the people who are guiding now. Number 285 DAN PRUITT, testified from Meier's Lake by teleconference. (Testimony inaudible.) Number 340 BILL LEONARD testified by teleconference from Gakona. He asked who and how will it be determined the amount of guides on which river. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN noted that this would be instituted by the Department of Fish & Game. Based on the resource and the number of guides available this would be done on a basis (inaudible - coughing) commercial fishing too. Number 365 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY said that it was his interpretation that before this program could implemented there would have to be a statute passed and the department would probably have to implement regulations. CHAIRMAN PORTER stated that what would happen after the constitution was amended is a statute would have to be written that would either merely give Fish & Game the authority to write regulations to determine how, where and when, or the statute could try to get into some policy making in this area depending on the will of the legislature at that time. JOHN WITTEVEEN testified by teleconference from Kodiak. He stated that he owned a lodge on Kodiak and with this business he runs a charter boat operation. The allocation problem continues to persist with the Kenai River and it's related areas, as well as, places in Southeast Alaska for charter boat operators and fishing guides. He said he would hate to see a limitation on the number of guiding operations, whether charter or river fishing implemented all over the entire state for a problem which perhaps exists in isolated areas. If indeed the concern is resource management, he felt as though Fish & Game has the option now if the resource is threatened to either close seasons or limit catches in order to conserve this resource. MR. WITTEVEEN noted that he employs a sixteen year old helper who presently has a sport fishing guide license. He is very good at what he does and Mr. Witteveen imagines that this helper will want to get into this field on a more permanent basis, yet the classic limited entry system in place for salmon such as for commercial would limit his ability to participate. He noted that the sport fishing business is not a lucrative profession. He felt that certain areas in Alaska, Kodiak particularly where the other commercial fisheries are on a decline or limited on a certain basis, people are looking for other opportunities, such as eco- touring or guiding kayaks or bear viewing, etc. He didn't see how sport fish guiding could be singled out on a blanket, statewide basis just because of problems in some areas of the state. Number 570 REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY stated that she was around when limited entry was instituted to the crabbing industry statewide in the 60's. She felt then and now that this was a very "un-American" attitude to limit something that is free for everybody. She felt as though this was private enterprise that they were stepping on. She used the analogy of a dress shop and limiting one in a town where there are already too many dress shops. She stated that this was the whole purpose of free enterprize. Somebody is going to loose their shirt because there are too many guides on a river. This is the way it's suppose to work. She said she could just see what will happen. If the constitution is changed and this fishery becomes worth millions of dollars. She stated that we have screwed up the fishing industry so badly in this state now. This is not the government's job, to limit businesses. Number 636 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN spoke to one portion of Representative Toohey's comments. He noted that this legislation was not about limiting free enterprize. This was to protect the fisheries resource. If this legislation passes, Fish & Game would then, based on the ability to maintain the resource, implement the same type of program as for commercial fishing. CHAIRMAN PORTER stated that he saw a difference between the regulation of commercial fishing and this legislation. "What an analogy would be, would be, some guide to go show a commercial fisherman where to fish because he has the ability to go fish because he's either got a permit or will be fishing within the limits of the area. Same thing with a sports fisherman. They have to get a license and they have to abide by the regulations of how many they take, and all that kind of stuff. This is a new 'cat,' this is a guide for that. So I don't see this as a resource protection. Maybe I'm missing something." REPRESENTATIVE GREEN made a point that if guides are any good they are going to know how to extract the resource far better than the average fisherman. As these proliferate the resource is adversely affected. This is why the committee has heard from problem areas. There are certain fisheries where this regulation is definitely needed. Number 762 L. ALAN LEMASTER testified by teleconference from Gakona. By limiting the number of guides on a river, the amount of people fishing with these guides will be limited. However, the people who are not fishing with guides are not limited in any way. On an average day on the Gakona River there are many times where there are more people fishing without guides than ones with guides. These guideless fisherman do catch as many fish as those with. He didn't think that limiting the number of guides will limit the pressure on the fish, but will change the way people fish. MR. LEMASTER said he had a problem with the next step of the process if this legislation were to pass. In order to implement this policy a statute would spell out the regulations or this right would be given to the Department of Fish & Game. Mr. Lemaster is in the lodge business and as a result he deals directly on several levels with the Department of Environmental Conservation. A few years ago this department was given the jurisdiction over user fees. During those hearings he only heard of maybe two witnesses in support of user fees. Virtually everyone testified against this concept, but because it was a regulatory issue, now they have user fees coming out of their ears. MR. LEMASTER said he supports the concept of regulating guides because eventually this profession will have to be limited if anyone is going to make any money. However, if it is determined by the people of the state that they want limited entry he strongly suggested that the rules for this program should be spelled out very specifically by the legislature. "I can't fire anybody who works for Fish & Game, but I can sure help fire the guys that work for the legislature if they pass rules that are detrimental to my business." The regulatory agencies go 'nuts' when given regulations to implement. Number 991 JOE HAGER testified by teleconference from Kenai. He stated that he'd been a guide on the Kenai River since 1978. At that time there were 38 guides on the river. The parks took over the system in 1985. At that time they registered 183 guides. As of last year there were 314 guides that registered to fish on the Kenai River. He felt as though other guides around the state will eventually see the influx to their businesses as well. Mr. Hager felt as though they were going to have to cap this off because it's getting too congested on the river and it's not a good business. Number 1066 MEL ERICKSON, Vice-President, Kenai River Guides Association and Member, Deep Creek Fishing Charter Boat Association testified by teleconference from Kenai. He stated that he had guided in both these areas for about eight years. Mr. Erickson stated his support for HJR 51. This regulatory system for sport fish doesn't necessarily have to take place in the whole state, but maybe in just those areas which need the program presently. He said he had just returned from the Board of Fish meetings in Anchorage. The board just put more restrictions on guides in the Deep Creek area because of the increase in angler catches there. The escapement there is being affected. MR. ERICKSON stated that the Fish Board had asked guides during public testimony about ways to limit the amount of people who fish the Kenai since they have no authority to limit guides. He felt that if some limitations were not made soon that the Parks Department would do so maybe through a lottery or competitive bid, which would be much worse than some sort of limited entry proposed by HJR 51. He felt as though it would be a good idea to propose an amendment to this resolution which would state that limitation could not be implemented without a specific plan approved by the legislature. Mr. Erickson also suggested an amendment that would call for a moratorium that would cap at the 1995 level of guides since it will a few years before this program can be implemented. Number 1276 DAVE JONES testified by teleconference from Kodiak. He stated that he owned a lodge on Kodiak Island. He said that he was not necessarily opposed to HJR 51, but he had a lot of concerns about it and noted that it might be appropriate in hot spots around the state. Mr. Jones said that this measure was not necessary in his area. In regards to how this legislation will be implemented he had a lot of reservations about this juncture. Number 1347 DONALD WESTLUND testified by teleconference from Ketchikan. He stated that he had one question. He asked if the concept of limited entry would follow the limited entry language as it is written right now for commercial fishing. CHAIRMAN PORTER stated that this language was written now and they would not be able to guess what a new legislature would want to create as policy. MR. WESTLUND said that if this legislation passes it will create management problems. The only way that they can implement this limited entry is to admit that their policies towards the sport catch is problematic from a resource management perspective. Number 1570 ANDREW SZCZESNY testified by teleconference from Kenai. He stated that he's been a guide on the Kenai River for 12 years. Every time there is a concern about overcrowding, the guides seem to take the blame for this. He noted that if there isn't a cap placed on the number of guides now the resource won't be able to recover. At this time he has a special use permit on the upper Kenai River which is regulated by the federal government. He is one of 20 people who have this permit up there. The problem with this system is the influx who use this section of the river which is getting out of control, but if asked what the problem is, the government says there are too many guides on the river. The lower 48 has had problems with a number of rivers there and they've had to implement restrictions. It's time Alaska recognizes a need for these restrictions on the Kenai. Number 1682 JOE HAINES, President, Kenai River Guide Association testified by teleconference from Kenai. He made a plea to the other guides listening around the state that this effort would be a tool used by local advisory people or the guide associations in an immediate area, although it has to be implemented on a statewide basis. He used the example of the commercial fishery limited entry and it not being applied to those areas which don't need it. Secondly, he stated that he'd just come back from the Board of Fish meeting and said it was unbelievable the general consensus that this program should be established, but nobody could understand why it wasn't happening. In response to Representative Toohey's comments, he felt they were extremely short sighted. He fully supports HJR 51. Number 1847 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked Mr. Haines if he thought that limited entry for a sport fishing guide was the same as for a commercial fisherman. MR. HAINES answered that limited entry was a stepping stone. He noted that guided anglers catch 70 percent of the salmon on the Kenai, although they only make up a quarter of the boats which are guide boats. He felt as though there would be a time that a non- resident would be limited to certain days they can fish. He said that he didn't mind taking the first step as a guide association to set some of these limits. Number 1970 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked if the Department of Fish & Game limit the catch of sport fishing, whether it's guided or not. MR. HAINES pointed out that sport fishing is not limited due to allocation, but that a minimum escapement is required. The guides get blamed for all the regulations generated because people need a guide to figure them all out. Fish & Game has the latitude, but information can't be gathered until fish reports come back the following year. There are many streams where salmon counts aren't done. He noted the increase in the number of guides just in the past year and not only are the resource suffering, but the quality of experience is lacking. Number 2099 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN added that the Fish & Game does limit the amount of escapement, but sometimes they miss as noted by closures of all the fish types in an area. Limiting commercial fishing doesn't solve the entire problem. TAPE 96-39, SIDE A MR. HAINES responded to a question posed by Representative Toohey, a question which is not reflected in the minutes because of a tape change. He stated that the Kenai River was the first river to go to a two fish bag limit. This spread out to the other streams in the Kenai system. Mr. Haines said that it was his opinion that this policy should be instituted throughout Cook Inlet. He noted that five kings was pretty liberal, instead of transferring this fishing effort and waiting till there are resource problems. He cited some of the rivers in the lower 48 and the limits instituted there. Mr. Haines stated that in order to preserve resources Alaska will have to limit the existing popular fishing areas. Number 222 RUEBEN HANKE testified by teleconference from Kenai. He said he was in favor of this resolution. He said it was hard to follow through on end river restrictions when the number of sport fisherman are too great. The guides are all trying to make a living and when a stream closes because of escapement problems, this is hard one everyone. He said it's also hard to tell clients on a "trip of their lifetime" that they have to release their fish under a catch and release policy. Mr. Hanke felt as though this resolution would create more continuity to the field. Number 360 MR. LEMASTER from Gakona said he had a few more things to add. He stated that rules which apply to one area don't always apply to another. He questioned the basic purpose of this bill, was it is to limit the number of guides for the benefit of the guides or is it to limit the catch on the river so it won't be placed in jeopardy. If it is the latter, he felt as though some credence should be given to the fact that guides take a limited amount of fish out of the river. He noted the numbers quoted for the guide take on the Kenai at 70 percent and stated that there are other areas where this may be reversed. Mr. Lemaster added that basically they just need to limit the amount of people on a river. Number 520 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE spoke to the issue of limited entry and how the value of permits for commercial fishing has skyrocketed. He said he was in favor of limited entry for sport fishing as long as the state held title to these permits and they would be given back to the state once a guide finishes with a permit so that a dynasty won't be created. He also spoke to a grandfathering program to allow present guides into the system. Number 719 CHAIRMAN PORTER commented that they have established this as a three step process, first this issue would go on the ballot to see if the people want to amend the constitution by subsequent regulation. For the record, he had concerns about this manner of limitation. He had concerns on a much broader scope about state permits and licenses becoming a valuable commodity. At some point this should be stopped. Number 788 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN felt as though the system of limited entry is the only thing they are left with as an alternative in the face of limited resources. He used the example of Denali National Park and the fact that he's come to accept this as part of this experience, that it is under a limited entry program. It's the nature of high interest areas and Alaska needs this tool. Number 850 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN stated that the fiscal note consisted of $2,200 as a one time shot for getting this limited entry issue on the ballot. The amount associated with this issue as a constitutional amendment should be done as a matter of course rather than as a special appropriation. He recommended adopting a zero fiscal note. Number 941 JEFF LOGAN, Legislative Assistant to Representative Green responded to a question posed by Representative Toohey to define what a "closely allied profession" was in regards to this legislation. He stated that this term was included in the legislation to cover skippers who were not guides who run a boat, people who bait hooks for clients, deck hands and others who assist in the guiding profession who are not guides. Number 1050 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN made a motion to zero out the attached fiscal note provided by the Division of Elections as to the cost of the constitutional amendment. There was an objection. A roll call vote was taken. Representative Green voted yes. Representatives Bunde, Toohey, Vezey, Finkelstein and Porter voted no. The proposed motion failed. Number 1118 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE made a motion to move HJR 51 from the House Judiciary Committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note. Representative Toohey objected. A roll call vote was taken. Representatives Bunde, Vezey, Finkelstein, Green and Porter voted yes. Representative Toohey voted no. The motion passed.