Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205
04/04/2005 03:30 PM RESOURCES
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SB 126-AQUATIC FARMING CHAIR WAGONER announced SB 126 to be up for consideration. SENATOR STEDMAN moved to adopt CSSB 126(RES), version F. There were no objections and it was so ordered. MARY JACKSON, staff to Senator Wagoner, said "acquire ownership of" was deleted on page 1, line 1 and page 3, line 6, has revisions of the phrase "on the site". The original version had it at the end of the line and the CS has it in the middle of the sentence. TIM BARRY, staff to Senator Stedman, sponsor of SB 126, said this legislation was requested by a coalition of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association and the Alaska Shellfish Growers Association that have been working for a number of years to resolve a number of legal and management difficulties which have prevented the development of a fledgling shellfish farming industry in Southeast Alaska. SB 126 amends the state's Aquatic Farming Act to allow aquatic farms to continue to operate in compliance with a Supreme Court decision made last April. The State Supreme Court ruled that the Aquatic Farming Act requires the Department of Fish and Game to deny shellfish farmers exclusive rights to what I refer to as significant populations of wild geoducks on their proposed farm sites. MR. BARRY said since that decision, the Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fish Association (SARDFA), the Alaskan Shellfish Growers Association and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) have negotiated an agreement that would allow these farmers to harvest insignificant populations of the geoduck clams on their sites without having to replace them. It defines an "insignificant population" as one that would not support a commercial fishery. He said it should have a zero fiscal note from the ADF&G. 3:41:35 PM SENATORS BEN STEVENS, SEEKINS AND GUESS joined the committee. 3:42:27 PM SENATOR ELTON said Amendment 1 addressed a fairly broad title and asked if it was going to be offered. MR. BARRY explained that the changes in the CS were made to conform the Senate version to the House version. A title change was made in the House an hour ago. This amendment was made in an effort to keep up with what they are doing and there was some concern about a broad title. 3:43:42 PM PAUL FUHS said he represents PAC Alaska, one of the pioneer farming operations. He supported the CS and the amendment. He pointed out that language in section (f) on page 2 is very convoluted and needs clarification. This does not mean that Fish and Game can authorize a commercial fishing operation on a farm after it's planted and has been granted. What this language does is it allows them to say, 'Okay, we're going to set an insignificant level.' Now if we made a mistake, despite all of our best efforts to make sure there are insignificant stocks on there, and then by chance there's more than that, this allows the state to assess what's essentially a windfall profit tax on that.... 3:46:10 PM MR. FUHS explained that it is a common-sense solution to say: The farmers will pay the 3% like everybody else up to 12,000 lbs, or whatever the amount is set. That's what Fish and Game has said they are going to set it at. We'll see what happens in those regulations and then after that, you'll pay a super tax of 10 times or 15 times the amount that would normally be paid and then that money could be used to replant other areas. This is an attempt to address the constitutional issues of the common property resource. It is limited only by the common property resource. The limited entry when the constitutional amendment went in and then it also said 'and for the efficient development of aquaculture.' It's never real clear what that section means. We know what limited entry means; we have that. So, it's the tension around this constitutional issue - is why that language is in there. 3:46:25 PM ROGER PAINTER, Alaskan Shellfish Growers Association, supported CSSB 126(RES) wholeheartedly. He said it is vital to the industry and has been thoroughly gone over by the Department of Law. 3:47:56 PM SENATOR DYSON asked why shellfish farming is an insignificant threat to wild stock and the environment and how it differs fundamentally from open ocean finfish farming. MR. PAINTER replied that the biggest difference is that shellfish are not mobile. Most are kept inside cages. Geoducks burrow and can go up and down, but can't move around. In addition, the state has stringent controls on genetics and diseases. Growers are required to get brood stock from the wild in the area that the shellfish are being grown. All shellfish are inspected for diseases before going to a farm or transferring to another site. 3:50:05 PM DAVID BEDFORD, Deputy Commissioner, Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), supported CSSB 126(RES). He said shellfish mariculture has substantial promise for the state and the private sector. It has been prevented from growing to the extent that it can in large measure because of the question of what kind of access a shellfish grower has to common property stock. A Superior Court decision informed the department that the constitution required it to provide access to insignificant amounts of shellfish to shellfish farmers. Then, a Supreme Court decision said the department couldn't do that because it didn't have statutory authority. SB 126 remedies both of those problems. It gives the department authority and defines insignificant stock. 3:52:28 PM CHAIR WAGONER asked how long it takes for a geoduck to mature. MR. BEDFORD replied five to seven years. SENATOR SEEKINS asked why on page 1, line 9, deletes "acquire ownership of". 3:53:36 PM MR. BEDFORD replied that as originally drafted you could have a situation in which a farmer would get a lease for a farm site and acquire ownership of the stock; he would then surrender the lease and still own the stock. He wanted to avoid that type of situation. The department wants the farmer to be able to harvest a small amount of stock in the course of his business, but not to own the farm site. SENATOR SEEKINS added that he understands that transfer of title to a wild stock of anything under settle law would be at harvest. He asked if they are not precluding the farmer from taking title to the ownership of the stock when he harvests it, but not before it's harvested. MR. BEDFORD replied that was correct. 3:55:34 PM JULIE DECKER, Executive Director, Southeast Regional Dive Fisheries Association, supported CSSB 126(RES). It has helped resolve a six-year controversy over who gets to harvest the wild standing stocks of geoducks on farm sites. 3:56:45 PM SENATOR STEDMAN moved to adopt Amendment 1 to CSSB 126(RES) to delete line 1 on page 2 and to insert, "An Act relating to aquatic plant and shellfish farming; and providing for an effective date." There were no objections and Amendment 1 was adopted. SENATOR DYSON moved to pass CSSB 126(RES) from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note. There were no objections and it was so ordered.