Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205
01/23/2006 03:30 PM RESOURCES
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CSHB 107(FIN)-HUNTING/FISHING INTERFERENCE CHAIR THOMAS WAGONER announced CSHB 107(FIN) to be up for consideration. JIM POUND, staff to Representative Ramras, delivered the sponsor statement. He related that CSHB 107(FIN) corrects an error in law that addresses a growing concern about individuals and groups who were obstructing hunting, trapping and wildlife viewing in Alaska. When an obstruction takes place, the offender can be charged with criminal activity; he can also be charged in a civil case by the aggrieved person. Juries have awarded as much as $200,000 in these aggrieved civil cases. Currently, reasonable attorney fees and costs are not necessarily awarded, which has a chilling effect, as this cost is directly passed on to the plaintiff rather than the defendant. HB 107 allows the court to authorize reasonable and actual attorneys fees when it comes to the prevailing party in either case. 3:32:57 PM CHAIR WAGONER commented that he read about a lawsuit against the state because a helicopter caused a fish to jump out of a seine. MR. POUND responded that a lawsuit was brought against a Fish and Wildlife Protection officer whose helicopter was too low according to the individual resident, and the helicopter scared away the game. A similar case had to do with fish in a commercial fishery. Language was added to this bill to prevent that from happening in the future saying that a law enforcement officer, in the line of duty, is not obstructing hunting, trapping or wildlife viewing. 3:34:52 PM SENATOR BERT STEDMAN asked how viewing wildlife is separated from hunting and trapping in multi-use areas. 3:35:33 PM MR. POUND clarified that language on page 1, line 6, states to: "intentionally obstruct or hinder another person's lawful hunting" and a snow machine causing an animal to move in a multi-use area wouldn't be considered intentional. 3:36:44 PM SENATOR BEN STEVENS asked why commercial fishermen are excluded on page 2, lines 20-22. MR. POUND replied that Representative Seaton didn't want this law to include commercial fisheries when working in close proximity to each other, like in Bristol Bay. One of the fishermen could try to use this language to fend off another. 3:37:59 PM SENATOR ELTON asked if the punishment of a snow-machiner is greater under these provisions or under the provisions of simply hunting or fishing where they are not supposed to be hunting or fishing. MR. POUND replied that he hadn't considered that scenario, but an action like that could possibly be based on someone operating a snow machine in a restricted area. SENATOR ELTON suggested that there could be multiple actions against a snow-machine operator. MR. POUND replied that there could be multiple infractions under existing statute right now. 3:40:20 PM SENATOR STEDMAN asked how one differentiates between wildlife viewers and hunters in multiuse areas. MR. POUND replied that this collision is already addressed in some ways in existing statute. The arresting officer decides who gets charged. SENATOR STEDMAN asked if this bill would make litigation more likely. MR. POUND replied that it would lead to more litigation only because it allows the award of full attorneys fees, which has not been the policy in the past. SENATOR STEDMAN commented that this bill might enhance this issue especially in multiple use areas where you might be fishing in a stream where someone may want to photograph the same fish. MR. POUND replied that that is the intent. This issue arose mainly from trappers with trap lines that had been cut maliciously. SENATOR BEN STEVENS noted that the definition of full attorneys fees has gone back and forth from reasonable and actual to 90 percent. He asked in what other instances is the prevailing party entitled to full attorney fees. MR. POUND replied in eminent domain issues. SENATOR BEN STEVENS asked if this action would be brought in criminal or civil court. MR. POUND replied that both criminal and civil actions are available to the Department of Public Safety, but this applies to civil. 3:44:34 PM CHAIR WAGONER said the required distance between drift gillnet gear and set net gear is different in Bristol Bay than in Prince William Sound and Southeast; and the committee needed to look at the phrase, "an action related to commercial fishing". He explained that many times ADF&G would refuse to become involved when there is an estimation of distances between gear types. It would be hard for a set netter to go to civil court and testify that someone was a certain distance from his gear without a criminal procedure having been taken first. MR. POUND replied that he thought one fisherman could bring an action against another fisherman through an administrative action since a lot of their activities are governed by regulations. SENATOR ELTON asked if language on page 2, lines 4 and 5, would allow a Southeast gillnetter to have a private action against a Princess cruise ship or a tug and barge if, in fact, his net was run over by one of them. MR. POUND replied that he would have to look that up. SENATOR DYSON responded that he thought yes. 3:48:13 PM SENATOR BEN STEVENS commented that it seemed that the intent is to prevent a third party from intervening in the action, not to prevent those individuals who are engaged in commercial fishing. MR. POUND replied that he understands this would prevent a commercial fisherman from bringing an action against another commercial fisherman. CHAIR WAGONER commented that he didn't know why Representative Seaton would want to take that stance. All kinds of actions among commercial fishermen could result in a civil action. 3:50:37 PM SENATOR DYSON assumed the purpose of this bill is to keep activists, who don't like hunting, fishing and trapping, from interfering with it. He suspected the sponsor did not want to delay action on a valuable bill because of its impacts on commercial fishermen. MR. POUND responded that he was correct. 3:51:57 PM SENATOR BEN STEVENS agreed with Senator Dyson, but pointed out that it wasn't the sponsor who inserted the clause about commercial fishing. SENATOR DYSON summed up the question asking if insertion of the phrase on page 2, line 28 didn't clear up the intent. CHAIR WAGONER announced that CSHB 107(FIN) would be held for further discussion.