Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/02/2003 03:35 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SJR 12-SUPPORTING HALIBUT BYCATCH PROJECT SENATOR GARY STEVENS, sponsor of SJR 12, explained to members that he introduced this resolution at the request of the Alaska Food Coalition. SJR 12 is a plan to support the Coalition's request to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to use halibut by-catch for the Coalition's food bank. This plan is remarkable in that fishermen and processors stepped forward and offered to provide community service for no personal benefit. He explained that trawl fishermen are currently prohibited from keeping halibut caught accidentally in the course of catching pollock. The fishermen are required, by federal law, to dump the halibut by-catch back into the sea. Certain processors have indicated a willingness to process that halibut by-catch at no charge and provide it for charitable uses. SENATOR GARY STEVENS told members the Alaska Food Coalition has the funds available to freeze, store and transport this halibut to many parts of Alaska. If SJR 12 passes, the resolution will be sent to the NMFS and the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (NPFMC). The Coalition has applied to those agencies for a prohibited species donation permit to use halibut by-catch. He pointed out that vessels must have an official observer on board to participate in this program. SENATOR GARY STEVENS told members he has a proposed amendment that was requested by the industry. SJR 12 contains the word "wasted." The industry would prefer not to use that word because it implies that fishermen are wasting the fish when they are required by law to dump it back into the sea. The amendment replaces the word "wasted" with "at sea discarded". SENATOR ELTON asked how many halibut survive. SENATOR GARY STEVENS said he believes most are dead by the time they are brought aboard. SENATOR ELTON questioned whether the first resolve clause of SJR 12 should specify halibut by-catch that has expired to clarify that any live halibut are tossed back into the sea. SENATOR BEN STEVENS told members that fishermen are not allowed to keep halibut by-catch without the prohibited species donation permit so a small longliner vessel without an observer would have to discard by-catch at sea. SENATOR ELTON said he assumes the point of the first resolve clause is that live halibut must be thrown back and not kept just because it could be donated to the food bank. SENATOR BEN STEVENS said he believes the operators will have to use discretion and that most operators would throw the by-catch overboard if there is any chance of survival. CHAIR OGAN asked if they are required to. SENATOR BEN STEVENS said they are required to throw the by-catch back regardless of whether it is dead or alive unless they have the permit. SENATOR ELTON said he would like to see the first resolve clause clarify that live halibut cannot be kept to donate to the food bank program. SENATOR BEN STEVENS pointed out that the word "dead" is used in line 6. He said he understands Senator Elton's point, but it is illegal to keep any halibut without a permit. CHAIR OGAN asked if a fisherman with a permit is required to throw back live halibut. SENATOR BEN STEVENS said the prohibited species donation program is only related to dead fish. SENATOR GARY STEVENS said it is not the intent of SJR 12 to keep live halibut. SENATOR SEEKINS suggested inserting the word "dead" before "halibut" on page 1, line 16. SENATOR BEN STEVENS suggested adding Senator Seekins' suggested language change to Amendment 1 when it is offered. SENATOR SEEKINS moved to adopt Amendment 1, which reads as follows. A M E N D M E N T 1 OFFERED IN SENATE RESOURCES BY SENATOR SEEKINS TO: SJR 12, DRAFT VERSION A 1. On page 1, line 6, after "halibut" delete "wastefully" 2. On page 1, line 10, replace "wasted" with "at sea discarded" 3. On page 1, line 16, after "otherwise", replace "a wasted" with "an unutilized" 4. Renumber accordingly. SENATOR LINCOLN objected and asked if Senator Seekins' suggested language was included in Amendment 1. CHAIR OGAN said it was not. SENATOR LINCOLN withdrew her objection. SENATOR BEN STEVENS moved to amend Amendment 1 by adding: On page 1, line 16, insert "dead" between "the" and "halibut". SENATOR GARY STEVENS suggested the words "recently deceased" but concurred with the amended amendment. SENATOR LINCOLN objected because she planned to offer an amendment as well and was not sure whether to offer it as another amendment to Amendment 1. CHAIR OGAN asked Senator Lincoln if her amendment had any affect on Amendment 1. SENATOR LINCOLN said it did not. CHAIR OGAN asked her to offer it separately. SENATOR LINCOLN removed her objection. CHAIR OGAN announced the motion to adopt the amendment to Amendment 1 carried. SENATOR LINCOLN noted that Senator Gary Stevens' sponsor statement says that SJR 12 will only apply to halibut by-catch on vessels with observers but she does not see that limitation anywhere in the resolution. She asked if that is a requirement of the prohibited species donation permit. SENATOR GARY STEVENS explained that a food bank from Seattle currently has a prohibited species donation permit for Bering Sea halibut. No other agencies have such a permit. That permit is only for vessels with observers. He believes that NMFS will ensure when it offers a permit that the by-catch must come from vessels with observers. SENATOR LINCOLN said she would not be offering an amendment in that case. SENATOR BEN STEVENS pointed out that the answer to both of the committee's questions about the process can be found on page 3 of a document entitled, "Prohibited Species Donation Program Proposal and Application of the Alaska Food Coalition" in members' packets. TAPE 03-21, SIDE B CHAIR OGAN asked how the fish will be distributed. SENATOR GARY STEVENS said the Kodiak Food Bank is located at the Kodiak Baptist Mission. When people come in, the food bank provides them with halibut filets. The food bank will also ship the halibut to other communities that want them. He said the Alaska Food Coalition is a statewide system. He believes the fish will be processed in Kodiak because that is where the processors who offered to do so are located. However, if the program can be moved to more communities, it would be even more accessible. CHAIR OGAN clarified that the committee adopted the amendment to Amendment 1 but not Amendment 1. He asked if there was objection to adopting Amendment 1 as amended. There being none, CHAIR OGAN announced that was adopted too. SENATOR SEEKINS told members he spoke with the Fairbanks Food Bank earlier, which supports this resolution. The Fairbanks Food Bank will be one of the distribution points through the Alaska Food Coalition. CHAIR OGAN stated on a recent visit he was very impressed with the kindness of the people and with the processors in Kodiak. He then took public testimony. MR. TREVOR JONES, representing the Alaska Food Coalition, affirmed that the Coalition's proposal requires that halibut come from vessels with observers only. He said the amendment will not hurt the resolution at all, however "by-catch" by definition is dead fish. He offered to answer questions. MS. SUSANNAH MORGAN, Executive Director of the Food Bank of Alaska and an officer in the Alaska Food Coalition, told members that the Coalition has a 15,000-foot warehouse that meets all health and safety codes in Anchorage. The fish would be transported from Kodiak to Anchorage and distributed from there. SISTER NOREEN, St. Frances House, a food pantry in Anchorage, stated support for SJR 12 and thanked members for their consideration of the measure. She said many of the people served by the St. Frances House will benefit from this proposal. MS. SARA JACKSON, program manager for St. Frances House, expressed her appreciation to Senator Gary Stevens and all of the people who are supporting SJR 12. She said her organization is seeing more hungry people and fewer resources so this resolution will be very helpful. SENATOR WAGONER suggested asking NMFS to permit this program for two years so that legislation will not be required again next year. SENATOR GARY STEVENS said the resolution only states support for the permit approval and that the rest of the application process is out of the legislature's hands. There being no further public testimony, SENATOR WAGONER moved CSSJR 12(RES) from committee. SENATOR ELTON objected to say that he is in awe of the people who are behind this program. He then removed his objection and the motion carried.