Legislature(2001 - 2002)
03/16/2001 03:47 AM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HJR 10-GROUNDFISH FISHERIES AND STELLER SEA LION CHAIRMAN TORGERSON announced HJR 10 to be up for consideration. REPRESENTATIVE DREW SCALZI, sponsor of HJR 10, testified: Upon passage of Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Conservation Management Act, fisheries in the U.S. waters became governed by regional councils and they were set up to make sound decisions based on biological data and economic viability to the coastal communities. The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council has done a very good job in managing the largest fisheries in the United State waters, which are predominantly carried in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. In 1973, the U.S. Congress also passed the Endangered Species Act, which was a noble attempt to place safety measures around species deemed threatened to the point of extinction. The Western Stellar Sea Lion in Alaska has become identified as such an endangered species. Nevertheless, the fisheries management by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council was challenged in court by Green Peace and a stay was issued in a Ninth Circuit Court requiring that a biological opinion to determine what measures are deemed necessary to protect the Stellar. The National Marine Fisheries Service was charged with the task of formulating the biological opinion (BIOP), which set in motion a number of restrictions on our U.S. and Alaskan fisheries. In defense of NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service), the task was to prove a negative. That is a conclusion proving there was no conflict between commercial fishing and the Stellar Sea Lion and if there was a conflict, what mitigation measures they were going to use to offset that. Four hundred and sixty-three pages of the BIOP sited numerous assumptions on the feeding habits of the Stellar regime shifts that have taken place in the last 20 years - predation by Orcas upon the Stellar and the identifiable conflicts between commercial fishing and the Stellar Sea Lion. In conclusion, the scientists could not determine 100 percent cause and effect of any one component, but rather drew assumptions that many factors may have resulted in decline of the Stellar. To err on the side of conservation, the BIOP concluded that shutting down a large portion of our fisheries may bring the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council in compliance with the Endangered Species Act. Frustration with the process as the preponderance of evidence citing the decline of the Stellar could find no conclusion, because the evidence of NMFS was based on assumptions, not facts, but assumptions. This resolution asks that we base our management on good science and conclude a reasonable outcome. There must be a decision made to reasonably change the sustained yield principal of fisheries management in U.S. waters and the assumptions that are cited in the BIOP need to be proven and from there we'll draw a reasonable fisheries management plan. To this end we are thankful to Senator Stevens. We are fortunate to have $3.5 million of federal appropriation that has been distributed among the scientific community including the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a peer review of the BIOP and produce the necessary research upon which to base a legitimate decision. Dr. Bob Small, Marine Mammals Coordinator for Fish and Game is a member of the Governor's Stellar Sea Lion restoration team and will speak about the state and federal research that's planned. It's ironic that Green Peace, in their effort to shut down the fisheries, initially targeted the large factory trawlers. These 200- 300 ft. vessels are going to be little affected by this act at all. It's going to be the small coastal vessels that are going to take the brunt of this. The vessels out of Seward, Homer, Kodiak, King Cove, Sand Point, Dutch Harbor. They are all ill equipped to fish in the winter waters. We know that this natural phenomenon has altered affects on all living creatures on the earth, including mankind himself. Many civilizations have come and gone due to regime shifts. All we're asking in this resolution is that we manage our fisheries with good science. SENATOR TAYLOR moved and asked for unanimous consent to pass HJR 10 from committee with individual recommendations. There were no objections and it was so ordered.