Legislature(1993 - 1994)
02/23/1994 08:30 AM FSH
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 496 - ESTABLISHING A GUIDED SPORTFISHERY LICENSE Number 030 PETER ECKLUND, LEGISLATIVE STAFF FOR REPRESENTATIVE BILL 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 sportfishery. 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 PAUL KRASNOWSKI, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF SPORT FISH, ALASKA 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 drafted. Number 264 FRANK HOMAN, COMMISSIONER, COMMERCIAL FISHERIES ENTRY COMMISSION, ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF FISH & GAME (ADF&G), 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 BILL FOSTER, REPRESENTING THE SITKA CHARTER BOAT OPERATORS, 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. THEODORE JOHNSON, A HOMER CHARTER BOAT OPERATOR, testifying 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 TIM EVERS, REPRESENTATIVE OF THE DEEP CREEK CHARTER BOAT 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 MIKE SWAN, REPRESENTATIVE of the HOMER CHARTER ASSOCIATION, 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 started. Number 146 ROGER WATNEY, an ANCHOR POINT CHARTER BOAT OPERATOR, 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 SEAN MARTIN, REPRESENTATIVE, HOMER CHARTER ASSOCIATION (HCA) 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 available. Number 232 JOHN GEORGE, LOBBYIST FOR THE ALASKA OUTDOOR COUNCIL (AOC), 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 enforcement. 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 operators. Number 340 ADJOURNMENT 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.