Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205
03/23/2005 08:30 AM JUDICIARY
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SB 126-AQUATIC FARMING 10:08:23 AM CHAIR SEEKINS announced SB 126 to be up for consideration. MR. TIM BARRY, staff to Senator Stedman, introduced SB 126. Senator Stedman sponsored SB 126 as a result of a coalition between the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), the Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association (SARDFA) and the Alaska Shellfish Growers Association (ASGA). SB 126 is a result of a compromise agreement between the groups who have been working together for years to resolve legal and management issues. SB 126 amends the Aquatic Farming Act (AS 16.40.100-199) to allow aquatic farms to continue to operate in compliance with a recent Supreme Court decision. 10:10:10 AM Section 1 amends the Aquatic Farming Act to allow shellfish farmers to own, harvest and sell insignificant populations of wild shellfish stocks on their aquatic farm sites. ADF&G is conducting a commercial dive fishery on designated mariculture sites to remove commercially significant population of wild geoducks. 10:11:24 AM SENATOR HUGGINS asked Mr. Barry if there are a significant number of geoducks in Alaska. MR. BARRY answered there is a thriving commercial dive fishery in Southeast Alaska. The farms are on a specific spot on the bottom of the ocean. The farming act gives farmers the right to grown and harvest shellfish on a specific spot of underwater land. 10:13:38 AM CHAIR SEEKINS commented wild free roaming animals, including shellfish, belong to all the people of Alaska. Under established law, title normally transfers at the point of harvest. SB 126 transfers ownership once people are granted agricultural rights. He asked Mr. Barry if that was an accurate summary. MR. BARRY agreed. 10:14:56 AM MR. DAVID BEDFORD, deputy commissioner, ADF&G, also agreed with Chair Seekins' comments. SENATOR THERRIAULT said SB 126 cleans up a past problem that has been pestering the state for seven years. 10:16:21 AM CHAIR SEEKINS commented only the Legislature can transfer a title prior to harvest. SENATOR THERRIAULT advised there have been audits and litigation. SB 126 will clear up any confusion of farming rights. SENATOR FRENCH asked if the farms or plots are visibly marked for the general public. 10:17:26 AM MR. ROGER PAINTER, vice president, Alaska Shellfish Growers Association (ASGA), answered Senator French's question. The sites are required to be marked with visible buoys. The buoys have the permit-holders name and permit identification. SENATOR FRENCH inquired on the size of a typical farm. MR.PAINTER responded approximately 3-4 acres. SENATOR THERRIAULT asked Mr. Painter where the farms reside in relation to the shoreline. MR.PAINTER disclosed they were generally located with some protection from the weather, which could mean along a shore or in a cove. 10:18:39 AM SENATOR THERRIAULT asked if farms have onsite caretakers. MR.PAINTER responded the farms are in the starting phase. They will not have caretakers on-site at all times. SENATOR FRENCH asked whether the plots would cover a shore where the public might suddenly be restricted from clam digging. MR.PAINTER intimated there are inter-tidal geoduck farms under development. Leases that farmers get from the state require public access that would allow the public to harvest other resources or to recreate so long as they are not disturbing the geoduck crop or the farm equipment. 10:21:19 AM SENATOR FRENCH expressed concern about public notification of a farm on the beach. He asked Mr. Painter whether there is any opposition to SB 126. MR.PAINTER claimed there was no negative testimony so far. ASGA, the United Fisherman of Alaska, and SARDFA support SB 126. SENATOR THERRIAULT asked Mr. Painter who the two parties were in the lawsuit. MR.PAINTER answered the Department of Fish and Game and four or five farmers. 10:22:59 AM SENATOR HUGGINS inquired as to the region in which geoducks are found. MR.PAINTER answered primarily Southeast Alaska. 10:23:23 AM MR. LANCE NELSON, assistant attorney general, testified in support of SB 126. The division of natural resources section of the AGs office in Anchorage believes SB 126 establishes a framework for a fair permitting system. SB 126 is an attempt to address the issues raised in both the Superior Court and the Alaska Supreme Court decisions in the Alaska Trademark Shellfish case. 10:25:39 AM CHAIR SEEKINS asked Mr. Nelson if he believes the Legislature is operating in the best of public interest if they were to pass SB 126. MR. NELSON said it was a good approach to solving the issues. SENATOR THERRIAULT asked what would happen in a case where a permit is issued to a location where it is later determined to be a significant population of wild stock. MR. BEDFORD advised ADF&G has rescinded sections of permits before. The ADF&G has also denied permits due to significant populations of wild shellfish stocks. ADF&G has not yet adopted regulations that clearly define what a significant population is. Should SB 126 pass, ADF&G will put into place regulations that give clear definition so that the industry will know their limitations and so the department will have standards by which to judge applications. SENATOR THERRIAULT asked Mr. Bedford if they are prepared to write the regulations. MR. BEDFORD advised a group including representatives from both sides of the industry have been working on the regulations for some time. The approach is to place a maximum limit on the amount of pounds of wild stock geoducks on a farm site. The group will also take into account the density of geoduck population and the location of other geoduck commercial fisheries. CHAIR SEEKINS asked Mr. Bedford if the intent is to get farmers to farm on non-productive land. 10:29:28 AM MR. BEDFORD responded not exactly. The court clearly informed ADF&G to focus on farming areas that had some geoduck presence but not significant amounts. 10:29:53 AM CHAIR SEEKINS commented the Legislature has yet to give ADF&G the authority to do that. MR. BEDFORD mentioned the court said ADF&G is the expert agency that would be best suited to define significant populations. Presently ADF&G has no ability to transfer titles to farmers. 10:30:21 AM SENATOR HUGGINS asked whether a recreational diver would have access to a commercial fishery area of geoducks. MR.PAINTER responded commercial fishing areas are open to sport fishing. SENATOR HUGGINS asked Mr. Painter whether commercial fishermen and recreational divers would come to a dispute over a fishing area. MR.PAINTER answered he could not envision that situation. Most recreationally harvested geoducks are taken by commercial divers. 10:32:20 AM SENATOR THERRIAULT pointed to Section 5 of SB 126 and asked Mr. Bedford why ADF&G would want to keep fishery records confidential. MR. BEDFORD explained for reasons of private business practices. ADF&G will produce an annual report for the public. Private enterprises should have confidentiality for their business records. SENATOR THERRIAULT asked Mr. Bedford how long it takes for a geoduck to reach harvestable size. MR. BEDFORD answered 5-7 years. The industry has not been growing long enough to establish an exact number. 10:34:12 AM SENATOR FRENCH pointed out a technicality in Section 6 on line 24. The word mean should be means. CHAIR SEEKINS clarified ADF&G would protect individual aquatic farm sites records but not the accumulative area record. MR. BEDFORD agreed. CHAIR SEEKINS suggested the language in Section 5 is unclear. MR. BEDFORD responded the drafters should be queried regarding Section 5. He believes the language is parallel to the language they have for confidentiality of other records. MR. NELSON detailed Section 5; Paragraph (4) refers to wild stocks. It would not apply to accumulative harvest of farmed stocks. Section 5 would not make confidential accumulated reports prepared from individual submissions by ADF&G. 10:37:51 AM MS. JULIE DECKER, member, SARDFA, testified in support of SB 126. MR. PAUL FUHS, lobbyist, testified in support of SB 126. 10:39:20 AM SENATOR THERRIAULT moved SB 126 from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note(s). There being no objection, the motion carried.