Legislature(1993 - 1994)

02/23/1994 08:30 AM FSH

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
  Number 030                                                                   
  WILLIAMS, PRIME SPONSOR OF HB 496, advised members that the                  
  guided sportfishery is an important and rapidly growing                      
  industry in the Alaskan economy, and will inevitably                         
  continue to grow and expand throughout the state.  The                       
  ability of the state to provide for the sustainable                          
  development and sound, fair, sensible management of the                      
  guided sportfishery, is dependent upon the availability of                   
  complete information upon which to base decisions.  The goal                 
  of HB 496 is to provide a mechanism for the ongoing                          
  collection of this crucial data regarding the guided                         
  MR. ECKLUND said in some parts of Alaska, the rapid growth                   
  in the charter industry has motivated sportfish guides                       
  themselves to request a moratorium on further expansion.                     
  That is the case in Ketchikan.  In researching the                           
  feasibility of various limitation schemes for these                          
  constituents, it was discovered that nearly every approach                   
  to a moratorium or limitation in the guided sportfishery for                 
  state managed species of fish would be unconstitutional.                     
  Furthermore, since there is room for further growth in the                   
  guided sportfishery in many areas of the state, including                    
  parts of Southeast Alaska, it may be premature and unwise to                 
  pursue limitation, even on a regional basis.                                 
  MR. ECKLUND further said there is an incredible lack of hard                 
  data available regarding the guided sportfishery in Alaska.                  
  By regulation, registration of vessels engaged in sportfish                  
  guiding activity is required in several parts of the state,                  
  but not in others.  Registration of guides themselves is                     
  required in a few rivers, but not elsewhere.  No uniform                     
  licensing procedure exists in Alaska.  Thus, there is no                     
  complete information about who is actively engaged in                        
  sportfish guiding, how many clients are served, what the                     
  catch rates are, and what rivers, streams, and marine waters                 
  are being utilized.                                                          
  MR. ECKLUND commented that without a means for gathering                     
  dependable information, it is impossible to monitor the                      
  activity or growth of the guided sportfishery on a statewide                 
  basis.  It is imperative for the state to have solid                         
  information to ensure the sustainable development of the                     
  industry and to the sound management of the fishery                          
  resources upon which the industry depends.  This data                        
  collection would provide a picture on which the state could                  
  base any future decisions about whether or where limitation                  
  schemes might be feasible or desirable.  It is time to                       
  acknowledge this important growing industry and ensure that                  
  management decisions can be based on complete information,                   
  not on guesswork, perception and supposition.  This is the                   
  intended goal of HB 496.                                                     
  MR. ECKLUND said HB 496 establishes a guided sportfishery                    
  license.  Each person who plans to engage in sportfish                       
  guiding, both on fresh water and salt water, from a vessel                   
  or otherwise, will be required to purchase the license.  The                 
  license holder should then be responsible for submitting                     
  reports which will be developed by the Sport Fish Division                   
  of the Department of Fish and Game to enable the state to                    
  build a data bank regarding the guided sportfishery.  The                    
  fee for the license is intended to cover the cost of the                     
  licensing procedure and the gathering, compiling and                         
  analysis of information.  The bill does not impose any                       
  limitations on the number of guides or vessels in the state                  
  or who can purchase the license to guide, nor does it affect                 
  their activities.  HB 496 is a first and imperative step                     
  towards having solid data upon which to build sound                          
  management policy for the guided sportfishery in Alaska.                     
  Number 112                                                                   
  DEPARTMENT OF FISH & GAME (ADF&G), advised members that                      
  sportfish guiding is a growing business and a significant                    
  part of the tourism industry.  There currently are no                        
  statutory requirements to license or register guides or                      
  charter operators.  There are some Board of Fisheries                        
  regulations that require fresh water fishing guides in Cook                  
  Inlet and Southeast Alaska to register with the Department,                  
  and charter operators to register their vessels in those                     
  areas with the department.  Continued growth of guiding                      
  businesses around the state will increasingly challenge the                  
  management activities.  At each meeting of the Board of                      
  Fish, at least one allocation question or concern is raised.                 
  The ADF&G supports this bill, as it allows the collection of                 
  data on the numbers of guides, the general areas of                          
  operation, the numbers of clients and the number of days                     
  fished.  This information will be essential for Board of                     
  Fisheries actions about fishery management and allocation,                   
  as well providing an assurance that the growth of business                   
  is consistent with the resource health.                                      
  Number 163                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS noted that if the license fee was                    
  deposited into the general fund, then reallocated to the                     
  ADF&G, there should be a program established that will                       
  define how that money will be spent.                                         
  Number 177                                                                   
  MR. KRASNOWSKI responded that the money would accrue to the                  
  Fish & Game fund with other license sales, like sport fish                   
  license sales and hunting license sales.  The Division of                    
  Sport Fish currently has no general funds, yet operates                      
  entirely on Fish & Game and federal funds.                                   
  Number 192                                                                   
  REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS asked where the revenue from the                     
  guide fee would go, and what it would pay for.                               
  MR. KRASNOWSKI noted the ADF&G fiscal note shows that the                    
  annual cost of the program would be less than half of the                    
  proposed license fee.  The estimated number of licenses                      
  desired may be close to the 2,100 guides and charter                         
  operators in the state at this time.  Approximately 85                       
  percent of those are Alaskan residents.  For some part time                  
  guides, the license fee may act as a disincentive to                         
  continue, and thus the 85 percent gives a more accurate                      
  picture of total revenue.                                                    
  Number 252                                                                   
  MR. ECKLUND responded that the intent of the guide fee was                   
  to break even with the cost of the fee versus the cost to                    
  the department.  The sponsor had just received the fiscal                    
  note on February 22, 1994, and had set the fee amounts in                    
  advance of getting the fiscal note.  No amendment was                        
  available to change the amount of the fees, but one will be                  
  Number 264                                                                   
  testified in support of the concept behind HB 496.  The                      
  ADF&G and Representative Williams have been working together                 
  to find the best method of data collection for sportfish                     
  guides.  Without some constitutional change to allow                         
  commercial fisheries to be limited, the Commercial Fisheries                 
  Entry Commission (CFEC), as set up, could not deal with                      
  sport fisheries.  The ADF&G has tried to come up with a                      
  moratorium, yet the department is commercially oriented, not                 
  sport oriented.  In order to see if a moratorium or                          
  limitation is needed in this fishery, the ADF&G needs to                     
  establish a database from which to see an impact on the                      
  fishery and that there is a detriment to the economic health                 
  of the fisherman.  These determinations must be made before                  
  any moratorium or limitation is imposed.                                     
  Number 328                                                                   
  testifying via teleconference from Sitka, advised members                    
  that his group is still evaluating HB 496.  As written, the                  
  bill will probably reduce the 140 charter boat operators in                  
  Sitka by about half.                                                         
  Number 343                                                                   
  JAY SKORDAHL, A CHARTER BOAT OPERATOR, testified via                         
  teleconference from Sitka that he will support HB 496, yet                   
  is uncomfortable with a moratorium at this time.  The                        
  accumulation of data will be useful for the future.                          
  Number 358                                                                   
  GARY PLUMB, A KETCHIKAN CHARTER BOAT OPERATOR, testifying                    
  from Ketchikan, asked if this bill would require guide                       
  applicants to purchase liability insurance on their vessels                  
  and go through drug testing.                                                 
  MR. ECKLUND advised members that he had a draft amendment                    
  dealing with those issues on hand, and those concerns would                  
  be addressed after the committee considered the amendments.                  
  Number 402                                                                   
  ED STAHL, A CHARTER BOAT OPERATOR, testified from Ketchikan.                 
  He claimed that such information gathering was fine, but                     
  every year was too frequent.  Part time charter operators                    
  should not be punished for working only weekends, and                        
  something should be added to HB 496 to protect these people;                 
  perhaps a lower license fee. He further stated the                           
  commercial fisheries don't hold a candle to the charter                      
  industry, and there should be tax incentives for others to                   
  enter the charter boat business.                                             
  Number 442                                                                   
  DONALD WESTLUND, A CHARTER BOAT OPERATOR, testifying from                    
  Ketchikan, said that there is a constitutional problem with                  
  the charter boat operators being regulated by limited entry.                 
  Charter boat operators already have to register their                        
  vessels for a fee; this bill would add another fee.  He                      
  suggested that funds be taken from ADF&G creel census to pay                 
  for the program.                                                             
  Number 469                                                                   
  DENNIS KETCHAM, A CHARTER BOAT OPERATOR, also testifying                     
  from Ketchikan, said there is only a perceived problem of                    
  too many charter operators.  There are no facts or figures                   
  to support any other theories, therefore it is only a                        
  perceived problem.  The money and information is already                     
  available; tacking on another fee is not quite right.  Until                 
  there is a problem with the conservation of fish, nothing                    
  should be done.                                                              
  ERIC JORDAN, A CHARTER BOAT OPERATOR, speaking to the                        
  committee from Sitka, supported HB 496 because there is no                   
  formal licensing process, nor any documentation of the                       
  charter boat businesses.  This information can help manage                   
  and protect the industry.  Unless managed effectively, there                 
  may be problems with overfishing and overcrowding similar to                 
  those in the commercial fisheries.                                           
  Number 526                                                                   
  DENNIS PEIRE, A SALCHA RESIDENT, testifying from Fairbanks,                  
  spoke in support of HB 496, yet felt that the fees in the                    
  bill are too high.  There are numerous other licenses                        
  required and the fees add up.  The charge for the drug                       
  testing alone is $460.00.                                                    
  Number 540                                                                   
  RIK VAN STONE, A FAIRBANKS RESIDENT, testifying from                         
  Fairbanks, said that he did not oppose the bill.  The fees                   
  should be charged on a biannual basis, and the money                         
  collected should not go to the general fund, yet should be                   
  used exclusively for the Department of Fish & Game.                          
  REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS commented that the intent is for the                 
  money collected to go to the Fish & Game fund.                               
  Number 565                                                                   
  BILL GAVIN, A SOLDOTNA RESIDENT, testifying from Soldotna,                   
  still failed to see the intent of HB 496 and spoke in                        
  opposition.  To study the sport fish industry, it will cost                  
  $208,000.  The information could be gathered much cheaper by                 
  a mail out, or collected from sources already existent.                      
  Operators should be required to have a valid American Red                    
  Cross first aid certification.  He further asked how                         
  enforcement will be handled.                                                 
  Number 595                                                                   
  JEFF KING, A CHARTER BOAT OPERATOR, testified from Soldotna,                 
  and reiterated that more regulations create more illegal                     
  activity.  Without strict enforcement, fewer people will pay                 
  the fee and fish legally.                                                    
  from Soldotna, spoke in opposition of HB 496.  There are                     
  currently too many licenses and fees, and the information is                 
  available in other places.                                                   
  Number 626                                                                   
  PAUL GEODERT, A CHARTER BOAT OPERATOR, testifying from                       
  Homer, asked about the exception to the Kenai River special                  
  management area on page two of HB 496.                                       
  Number 630                                                                   
  MR. ECKLUND replied, that area is currently managed by the                   
  Department of Natural Resources, and the fees are in excess                  
  of $200 originally proposed, then those fishermen would not                  
  need to get another license and pay another fee.                             
  Number 636                                                                   
  MR. GEODERT further said that article nine, section seven of                 
  the Constitution says that the proceeds of any state tax or                  
  license cannot be dedicated to any special purpose.  After                   
  hearing Mr. Ecklund's comment, Mr. Geodert spoke in                          
  opposition to HB 496 as it violates several areas of the                     
  Alaska State Constitution, by exempting the Kenai fishermen                  
  from the fee.                                                                
  TAPE 94-10, SIDE B                                                           
  Number 022                                                                   
  ASSOCIATION, testifying from Homer, opposes HB 496.  The                     
  ADF&G should gather information from its own sources,                        
  instead of starting a new program.                                           
  Number 048                                                                   
  testifying from Homer, advised members that the information                  
  sought is already out there, and fishermen should not have                   
  to pay another $200.                                                         
  Number 070                                                                   
  CHETT CUNDIFF, OWNER, GOOD TIME CHARTERS, testifying from                    
  Homer, advised members that she opposed HB 496.                              
  Number 075                                                                   
  ED DERSHAM, ANCHOR POINT CHARTER OPERATOR, testifying via                    
  teleconference from Homer, said he is already required to                    
  give catch information, and is reluctant to give more                        
  information for such a high price.                                           
  Number 114                                                                   
  ROBERT WARD, OWNER OF A-WARD CHARTERS, testifying from                       
  Homer, spoke in opposition to HB 496.  There should be a                     
  tighter definition of a guide and the fishermen should be                    
  entitled to see the results of the data, for the price of                    
  $200.  If the goal is to reduce the total number of guides,                  
  it may take some time, and it's not in the best interest of                  
  the fishermen.  The Commercial Fishing and Agricultural Bank                 
  (CFAB) should help with tax incentives for fishermen to get                  
  Number 146                                                                   
  testifying from Homer, said that the numerous license fees                   
  are going up.  He further asked that the small business                      
  owners not be penalized with another fee, unless there is a                  
  legitimate need for the money.  The resident fee should be                   
  $50 and nonresident fee should be $1000.                                     
  Number 167                                                                   
  testifying from Homer, stated the information that ADF&G is                  
  seeking is already available from other sources, it simply                   
  needs to be pooled together.  A two or three year study may                  
  be pertinent, however an open ended study is too much and                    
  the fees are too high.  If the fees were going to be used to                 
  enhance the sport fishery, instead of going into the general                 
  fund, the HCA could support the bill.                                        
  RON McKINSTRY, OWNER OF EAGLE SPIRIT CHARTERS, testifying                    
  from Homer, opposes HB 496.  The fees the charter operators                  
  pay are exorbitant, and the information is already                           
  Number 232                                                                   
  spoke in support of HB 496 as a data gathering device.  The                  
  charter boat industry is growing and information will be                     
  critical later.  The fees could be adjusted, and the list of                 
  licenses could be reduced, as commercial fishermen need not                  
  purchase a business license.                                                 
  Number 256                                                                   
  MR. KRASNOWSKI clarified that creel surveys are not                          
  conducted statewide and those surveys are very expensive.                    
  The surveys are random and do not contribute catch data to                   
  specific anglers.  The intent is to be information                           
  gathering, not regulatory.                                                   
  Number 296                                                                   
  CHAIRMAN MOSES asked if the growing sportfish guide business                 
  was adding increased burden to the Fish & Wildlife                           
  MR. KRASNOWSKI stated that Fish & Wildlife would be best                     
  suited to answer; however, as fisheries are more heavily                     
  used, the more activity there is for enforcement and fish                    
  management.  The more information we can gather on the                       
  growth, the better the management.                                           
  Number 311                                                                   
  MR. ECKLUND stated that currently, the Department of Fish &                  
  Game is not able to pull all the data from different                         
  programs and databases, as there is no vehicle; HB 496 is                    
  the vehicle that allows for such data collection.                            
  MR. FOSTER clarified that although there are 140 registered                  
  charter boat operators in Sitka, many of those are not                       
  active.  A $200 fee will discourage all but those serious                    
  Number 340                                                                   
  CHAIRMAN MOSES asked members and the public if there were                    
  further comments.  Hearing none, he stated that HB 496 would                 
  be HELD FOR FURTHER CONSIDERATION.  He adjourned the meeting                 
  at 9:45 a.m.                                                                 

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