Legislature(1997 - 1998)
04/17/1997 08:15 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL 19 "An Act relating to licensing of sport fishing services operators and fishing guides; and providing for an effective date." REPRESENTATIVE ALAN AUSTERMAN stated that licensing of sport fishing is an important and rapidly growing commercial industry in the Alaska economy. The ability of the State to provide for the sustainable development and a sound, sensible management of our fishery resource is dependent upon the availability of complete information from which to base decisions. He noted that there is lack of data available regarding the commercial guided sport fishery in Alaska. Currently, no uniform licensing procedure for sport fish guides exists in Alaska. Registration of the guides themselves is required on a few rivers, but not everywhere. Thus, we do not have 6 complete information about who is actively engaged in commercial sport fish guiding, how many clients are served, what the catch rates are, and what rivers, streams and marine waters are being utilized. Representative Austerman pointed out that Section 1 of HB 19 would include "the sport fishing services industry" under the authorities of the Board of Fisheries, "as needed for the conservation, development and utilization of fisheries". Inclusion of that language, gives the Board the same regulatory authority with guide business operators that it currently has with the commercial, sport, guided sport, subsistence and personal use fishing. The "guided sport", currently, in existing statute has been generally interpreted to limit the Board's regulatory authority over exclusively guided anglers. Representative Austerman continued, HB 19 would establish in statute, a sport fish guide licensing program and would require the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to collect the needed information for a period of three years. It would not impose any limitations on the number of guides or vessels in the State, nor would it affect their activities other than having to report and carry that documentation. The cost of licensing, data gathering, analysis and enforcement would be funded by the revenues generated from the license fees. The program would be fiscally self- sustaining. Representative Austerman provided a sectional analysis of the proposed legislation indicating how it would relate to the proposed amendment. He noted that new language had been added, following a determination by the attorney for Board of Fish and the Attorney General's office that the Board of Fish does not have the authority to regulate the guided sport industry. It had been assumed that they carried that authority. The new language addresses that concern. He elaborated that the amendment provided by Representative Mulder removes the new language. [Copy on file]. LARRY ENGEL, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), BOARD OF FISHERIES, MAT-SU, explained that the Alaska Board of Fisheries supports the legislation. Both the Board and the task force believe that a comprehensive licensing system is needed to better define the diverse industry. The proposed licensing system provides needed definitions for companies and individuals who provide sport fishing, guiding, chartering, and outfitting services. Through such definitions, it is hoped that the industry can be more fully identified and organized. He added, it is believed that the definitions will close loopholes in current definitions, thereby, providing a level playing field for the industry 7 and for better enforcement of regulations pertaining to sport fishing guides and charters. Mr. Engel acknowledged that a comprehensive licensing program will add stability to this economically important industry which supports many jobs throughout Alaska. Representative Mulder commented that he supported licensing guides, but had misgivings with the broad regulatory powers bestowed upon the Board. He questioned why the Board of Fisheries was taking such a pro-active stance. Mr. Engel replied that the Board of Fisheries has embraced the concept of the legislation. The Board wants to know who the guides are and how they run their business. At this time, the guides only need to register. He reiterated that there is no accountability and no licensing. Representative Mulder questioned at what point does the board become punitive toward the guides. Co-Chair Hanley asked who was responsible for setting the limitation for guides on the Kenai River. Mr. Engel stated that the requirements are established by the Alaska Board of Fisheries. Co-Chair Hanley questioned the net effect if the language was deleted as proposed in Amendment #1. [Copy on file]. KEVIN DELANEY, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF SPORT FISH, DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME, ANCHORAGE, voiced support for the proposed legislation. He noted that sport fish guiding is a critical link in the State's natural resource based economy. Sport fish guiding activities have increased across all regions of the State. With this growth has come increased concern for fishery resources and the quality of the sport fishing experience. HB 19 would provide for definition of statutory reporting requirements and penalties for noncompliance. If adopted by law, the legislation would acknowledge this industry as a profession which utilizes the State's fishery resources and would create a framework for the industry in the future. JOHN GLASS, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PROTECTION, ANCHORAGE, stated that the Division of Fish and Wildlife Protection endorses passage of the proposed legislation. JOHN GOODHAND, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), VALDEZ CHARTER BOAT ASSOCIATION, TASK FORCE FOR GUIDE CHARTER, VALDEZ, agreed that the proposed legislation would provide accountability for all guides. (Tape Change HFC 97-103, Side 1). 8 Mr. Goodhand continued, the proposed legislation is not a limited entry program. He referenced the large growth within the industry. DAN COFFEY, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), ATTORNEY, SUBCOMMITTEE, BOARD OF FISHERIES, ANCHORAGE, noted that the Board formally supports the proposed legislation because of the substantial growth in the guided fishery industry and the difficulties the Board has experienced resulting from that growth. The Board believes that the legislation is appropriate and necessary. ALAN LEMASTER, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), GAKONA, voiced his concerns with the proposed fees. Representative Austerman explained that the Department of Law has indicated that cases exist in reference to license fees between resident and non-residents. The Department recommends that the current ratio should be lower determined by the amount of State dollars spent on the industry. STEVEN DAUGHERTY, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, ALASKA BOARD OF FISHERIES, DEPARTMENT OF LAW, explained that the Board's current authority under Section 12, AS 05.16.05.251, is over guided sport fishing, not direct authority over the guide him/herself. The guide is not the person who is physically engaged in the activity, rather, the one who is taking the client out. Most of the Board's regulations are worded specifically toward the client. There are only a few regulations which directly apply to guides. Registration requirements have been approved by the Department of Law because they are reasonably necessary in order to implement the Board's authority to guide sport fishermen and are not substantive requirements. Mr. Daugherty continued, there will be challenges if the Board is not given explicate authority to regulate the guided sport industry rather than just the guided sport fishermen. DONALD WESTLUND, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), CHARTER GUIDE, KETCHIKAN, suggested that the bill would cause a duplication of reporting for the sport fish industry. He noted that he did not support the legislation. HB 19 was HELD in Committee for further consideration.