Legislature(1997 - 1998)
03/11/1998 05:04 PM FSH
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 423 - ACCESS FISHERY TRUST/LIC. PERMIT SURCHARGE Number 0038 CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN stated that due to the sponsors's time constraints he will hear an introduction to HB 423 and then table it and hear the other items on the agenda. He stated that HB 423 is "An Act relating to the Alaska access fishery trust, purchase of commercial fisheries permits, vessels, gear, equipment, and leases by the Department of Fish and Game, sport fishing license surcharge, and the entry permit surcharge; and providing for an effective date." Number 0113 REPRESENTATIVE ELDON MULDER stated that he introduced HB 423 at the request of the Board of Fisheries, due to the conflict in relation to the harvest of fish and because of the potential solution that buy-backs can provide. House Bill 423 sets up a funding mechanism to do so. He said, "The substance of the bill that pertains to the actual operations of a buy-back, as you will hear in testimony later, they don't work and that is not the purpose of the bill." He explained that it was important to get a framework established to bring the affected parties to the table to work out a buy-back program that does work. Number 0296 CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN asked Mr. Coffey if he would see a need for this bill. MR. DAN COFFEY, Vice-Chairman, Board of Fisheries, said "Yes, Mr. Chairman. Basically what lead us to this was, we have had discussions, over the two plus years that I've have been on the board, with members of the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission and of course we see the issues in the winter time, when we are in cycle, we see monthly the kind of battles that result from the circumstances in which our fisheries currently find themselves, which is a combination of -- some instances reducing availability of resources but in more instances just the overcapitalization and the efficiencies of our fishing fleets. The gear is better, the positioning is better, the boats are better, all the equipment is better and that has made our fishermen much more efficient at their jobs. And as a result we find shorter seasons, less opportunity on all the allocation battles that go on between not only different types users, sport, commercial and so on, but also within the commercial industries between the various different gear types, those allocation battles become as sacrimonious and as divisive as any between different types of users. So, we needed -- we wanted to express to the legislature was some of our frustration and to express the hope that in some manner the legislature would be able to deal with this. We know it is a very intractable problem, Mr. Chairman, because of our discussions with Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission and the problems intended on any such buy-back and when we heard of the possibility of a funding mechanism being established we wanted to lend our support because we think the problem is significant enough that it needs to be addressed by the legislature. As to any particular solution the Board of Fisheries had no -- has no agenda in terms of do this don't do that -- its just that we very much have to face the problem consistently and regularly and we were hoping that the legislature could find a solution to this problem. Mr. Chairman, thank-you." Number 0469 CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN asked if he had any thoughts if the legislation should look at this as a statewide proposal or should the legislature look at this on a region to region basis. Number 0500 MR. COFFEY replied "Well -- when the board discussed it, it was -- Mr. Chairman, the discussion was generally that it would be statewide because although there are some fisheries in our state which are not necessarily overcapitalized, the vast majority of them are and so we felt it would be more appropriate to be statewide. But there's -- the flip side of the coin could be, there's some that are more overcapitalized and more intensive than others and so it might be appropriate, after the plan and the funding mechanisms are established, to maybe focus on this area and not another area because of the matter of degree of overcapitalization." Number 0535 CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN stated the burning issue is the Cook Inlet issue and asked if the Board of Fisheries would be receptive if this ended up to be just a Cook Inlet issue that the legislature tried to resolve. DAN COFFEY replied, "That -- you are correct when you say it is a burning issue. I mean that's where the biggest conflicts exist between sport and commercial users and to the extent that the endeavor of-- the goal of buy-back would be to resolve disputes between sport and commercial users and that would be an appropriate place to start. To that degree, yes, that would certainly be helpful to the board. Ya, I agree with that." Number 0595 CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN asked if he visualized this as more of an overcapitalization of the fleet in reference to commercial fishing or if it is more of an issue of overcapitalization in reference to allocation between the sport fish industry and commercial fishing industry. For example, the bill had an allocation of the sportfish licence of $1 plus the 5 percent of the commercial fishing fees, which indicates that sportfish is involved in this. He asked if it was the Board of Fisheries intention, whether this is an overcapitalization of the commercial fishing industry issue or is it a sportfishing versus commercial fishing issue that they are trying to resolve. Number 0638 MR. COFFEY replied "No, I think the main and thrust of it was that it is a commercial fisheries issue and the rub point, resulting from it are found at not only the commercial levels and the allocation battles between commercial users but also at the level of where the sport and commercial interests conflict. And that of course, is you have properly identified, is to the greatest degree found in Cook Inlet, that is were most of the sport fishermen (Indisc.--paper shuffling). So I view it as, from the board's perspective, my understanding Mr. Chairman, from the debate, of the boards perspective, that we were viewing it from the fact that the commercial fishing industry has become more and more efficient and in that sense overcapitalized and to some degree the number of limited entry permits that were issued at the time were probably greater than the fisheries could handle. We talked about problems like when a family that used to fish one permit went in to apply for it, Mom got a permit, Dad got a permit, and all three kids got a permit. So where before you used to have one, now you've got five. And things like in -- we've talked about in area M, where it used to be that a one fishing family would have a seine permit and a drift permit and a setnet permit and that's cause they fished different fish at different times of the year. And then they sold off their permits one at a time and kept the one they wanted to fish and you compound that with the fact that Mom, Pop and the kids all got a limited entry permit and then you compound it that the same permit that they had in the 50's and 60's was a beach seine permit and now its a power seine permit and instead of having a boat that could go out only in good weather they've got a boat that you know is 58 feet and can fish year round and so on and so on. So that's the discussion we had about the overcapitalization, Mr. Chairman." Number 0771 CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN stated that he was going to table HB 423. HB 423 - ACCESS FISHERY TRUST/LIC. PERMIT SURCHARGE Number 1816 CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN stated that he would take up HB 423 again. Number 1829 CHRIS BERNS testified via teleconference from Kodiak that there are a lot of problems with the bill but the basis to have a fund for a buy-back should be investigated and he supports that. CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN stated that HB 423 will be held over.