Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/29/1995 05:05 PM House FSH
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HFSH - 03/29/95 HB 175 - SPORT FISH GUIDE LICENSING Number 236 CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN, the prime sponsor of HB 175, gave the committee a brief synopsis. He said the emphasis of this bill is to create a guiding license for sport fish guides and tying a recording system to that licensing. The data collected would be very important for this aspect of the industry. The commercial fishing groups already have a recording mechanism in place. This will add another method for determining how many sport fish are being taken. It will help the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to set licenses, fees and deal with allocation issues. Number 279 JOHN JOYNER testified via teleconference from Ketchikan, with concerns about HB 175. He wanted to know where the resident fee of $200 was going to go. He stated, "I hear the state just enacted a guide registration bill, so we really don't need that. The data that needs to be gathered, we already are doing extensive (indisc.) samples." He wanted to know what the point of the bill was. CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN felt that the amount of data that has been collected is insufficient to make the proper determinations of what is happening in the industry. It is one more step in the process of the overall use of what the resource is. The money will go towards the staff time and compilation of the data after it is gathered. Number 318 KEN DOLE, Managing partner, Waterfall Resort, testified via teleconference from Ketchikan, with objections to HB 175. He indicated that he had attended a Board of Fish meeting where they passed proposals to have a registration of guides and a definition of guides. He thought from that standpoint, the information HB 175 is interested in, is already on its way to being recovered. He also reported that the Board of Fish established a task force to work with the board and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), to establish what additional information or regulations that need to be implemented. He mentioned, "When your talking about log books and individual charter boat operators providing information, you're going to get information that is probably seriously flawed. In my operation, I have 80 employees. I have 25 guides. I can't fudge. I have people looking over my shoulders, disgruntled employees can turn me in, that type of thing. I have to play by the rules. But when you have a single guide out there that's operating a charter boat, he can do pretty much whatever he wants." He also spoke to the allocation of the king salmon issue and the many guides that will get into limited entry. In closing, he reiterated that the Board of Fish is moving on this topic and maybe we can wait on legislation and see how they and the task force move on these issues. Number 370 REPRESENTATIVE KIM ELTON expressed to Mr. Dole that the Board of Fish proposal number 299 and the substitute language, reflects no fee affiliated with what the Board of Fish did through administrative regulations. He felt without a fee, we're going to be diverting resources from other ADF&G programs to accomplish what the regulations do. He wasn't sure if we can afford to divert funds from any other division activities. Number 383 MR. DOLE felt the Board of Fish didn't have the ability to implement fees. He also expressed the concern that many of his guides are no longer in the state, and his company alone will be paying about $14,000 next year for guide registration fees. He suggested that the ADF&G come back and say, "We are going to need this amount of money and we believe there's this number of guides out there, let's divide that up and you put that number in the bill, I couldn't argue with that." REPRESENTATIVE ELTON recounted by saying the amount of money collected on the fee is a separate debate. He didn't view this as a revenue bill. His concern was over stretching ADF&G's resources too thin to accomplish the regulations the Board of Fish has adopted. Number 412 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN felt that HB 175 is a revenue bill. He made the comparison between a commercial fishing license and a fish guide license. Number 420 CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN asked Mr. Ogan for a clarification in the comparison of licenses. REPRESENTATIVE OGAN cited Alaska Statute 16.05.480, commercial fishing license. The fee is set at $30 for residents and $90 for nonresidents. He felt the fees in comparison were out of line. But he also proposed that we keep the fees in HB 175 and raise the commercial license fees. Number 432 REPRESENTATIVE CARL MOSES felt that the proposed fees in HB 175 were fair as compared to other sport fishermen licenses. He also offered that they take into consideration fishery permits as a fairer comparison. Number 442 BILL STEFFEN, Chairman, Cordova Charter Boat Owners Association, testified via teleconference from Cordova, in opposition to HB 175. He felt that the ADF&G is gathering information from different places. He also felt that the fee structure was out of line. He related that we would get more response from the sport fishing people if you have them report on a voluntary basis. If the state wants more revenue, they should do something about the nonresidential commercial fishermen. Number 470 BILL FOSTER, President, Sitka Charters Members Association, testified via teleconference from Sitka, with concerns about HB 175. He emphasized the need to move slowly on this bill, in lieu of the recent Board of Fish proposal and the formation of the task force. They are evaluating how the Board of Fish proposal and HB 175 could work together. Specifically on HB 175 he stated, "The merit we find in this bill is identifying who is guiding sport anglers. For years, we in Sitka and other parts of Southeast, have been bashed with the so-called explosive growth, based on vessel registration. The vessel registration now enforced in Southeast, does not reflect the person actively engaged in sporting fish charters. Just having a Coast Guard license and a vessel registered does not mean you're in business. Time and again we have persons with a vessel on the list, they can insist they were charter boat operators. This is like me speaking for longliners, since I helped a person pull one halibut skate about ten years ago. Over and over we've been hit with this large 166 vessel registration in the 1994 Sitka list. When you really look at the list, you can eliminate about a hundred vessels, that for one reason or another do not charter for sport fishing in Sitka. For that reason, we would like to see a guide permit that would help reflect the true nature of the business." MR. FOSTER continued by saying, "What bothers us about HB 175 is the report section. Most of us keep very complete records for our own use. First, if we were to accept HB 175, we would have to have assurance that a group of sport fish guides would be involved with the sport fish division to develop the reporting form and the information required. I think the kinds of information, especially on kinds and species and things like that, is very important on how that is approached, especially in light of some negotiations with our good friends in other parts of the Northwest. On the other hand, the good part of the reports required, is that it would identify those speculators who get the permits, but do not guide clients. Now they could falsify it, but we think the penalty is fairly severe. In fact, I think you could make the penalty even greater, with a fine also." He further said, "As far as the fee of for $200 per permit; we can live with that. It would be worth it almost to get the speculators out and get realistic numbers of sport fish guides. As far as the $600 nonresident, it won't keep them out, but it will make them think a little bit." Number 516 DAVE BENTON, Acting Deputy Commissioner, Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G), testified in support of HB 175. He stated that ADF&G has been supportive of this bill. He believed that something like HB 175 is necessary for the charter industry. He indicated that the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (NPFMC) has taken up the issue of charter boats and restricting sport charter operations with regard to halibut. He said, "The state is the entity that ought to be regulating this industry and that Alaskan's should be shaping how the charter industry is managed in the future." Furthermore he said, "The federal system just isn't really the place that we want to see this activity regulated." He also shared that the Board of Fish and the NPFMC talked about the different proposals out before the Board of Fish. The NPFMC deferred action because of these talks, he disclosed. He didn't feel that proposal 299, that passed the Board of Fish, is going to address the kinds of questions and concerns that were posed at the NPFMC meeting. It does begin to initiate a program to register guides and start collecting some information. But he pointed out that it doesn't address some other basic kinds of information that are important, such as numbers of clients, time in area and species. Number 596 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN asked if it was possible to take some of the funds from this bill, if passed, and dedicate some of this money to the Fish and Wildlife Protection Division. Number 616 JOHN BURKE, Acting Director Sport Fish Division, answered that the money collected would go to ADF&G. Generally, if it comes from license fees, then it probably couldn't go to the protection division. Number 624 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS asked Mr. Benton the authority of the Board of Fish to institute fees. Number 630 MR. BENTON responded by saying, "It's my understanding that fees have to be enacted statutorily. The Board of Fish cannot enact fees. It's the prerogative of the legislature to do bills such as this to collect fees." REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS affirmed this answer by saying, "We see proposal 299 and that doesn't institute any fee. It may recommend, but it doesn't institute any fee." CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN also specified, "That's also my understanding that 299 does not give the direction to gather the data either." Number 639 MR. BENTON confirmed both statements by saying, "I looked at 299 and it does require collection of some information at the time of registration, but it doesn't require the kinds of information we would gather in season from the guides." Number 644 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON commented on one of the questions that Mr. Foster from Sitka had asked. That question had to do with making sure that the industry was involved with the drafting of the information gathering regime. He asked Mr. Benton if it was possible to notify people who have testified previously on this bill. Number 652 MR. BENTON replied that it would go out for public comment and they could certainly contact those individuals who had testified. He indicated that ADF&G would be very interested in the guide industry's comments on the regulations. CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN advised the committee that it was his intention not to move HB 175 out of committee tonight. He felt more information is needed from both the public and the ADF&G. Number 662 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS asked if a chart could be provided from the ADF&G and address the fees that are paid now versus the fees proposed in HB 175. MR. BENTON indicated that guides basically don't pay anything through the ADF&G. There are vessel registration fees that people would have to pay. He wasn't clear if ADF&G had access to all that information, but will try and put together as much as they can. Number 672 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN thought it would be helpful if someone from the Department of Commerce and Economic Development could speak to this issue. He compared fees to the Big Game Commercial Services Board and how it pays to support the board functions. He also cited Alaska Statute 16.43.160, setting fees from $10 to $750 for limited entry permits. That money also goes to support the Limited Entry Commission. He thought that the fees are too high in HB 175 and we should compare what the fees are for and what the fees support. CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN announced that the committee would invite someone from the Department of Commerce and Economic Development to discuss HB 175. Number 688 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON felt the fees should be equitable, but we also have to be sure we match the fees with the work product that is expected of the ADF&G. We want to collect enough, but not more than enough. He pointed out that the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission license fees are now contributing to the general fund. CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN affirmed that the discussion on the fee structure is very appropriate.