Legislature(2009 - 2010)BARNES 124

02/24/2009 10:15 AM House FISHERIES

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10:14:14 AM Start
10:15:05 AM Confirmation(s): Reappointment to Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission – Judge Peter Froehlich
10:42:06 AM HB43
11:46:25 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Please Note Time Change --
+ Confirmation Hearing: TELECONFERENCED
Commercial Fisheries Limited Entry
Heard & Held
HB 43-GEODUCK AQUATIC FARMING/SEED TRANSFER                                                                                   
10:42:06 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR EDGMON  announced that the  next order of business  would be                                                              
HOUSE BILL  NO. 43,  "An Act relating  to aquatic farm  permitting                                                              
involving  geoducks   and  to   geoduck  seed  transfers   between                                                              
certified hatcheries and aquatic farms."                                                                                        
10:42:42 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  PAUL SEATON,  Alaska  State Legislature,  provided                                                              
an  introduction to  HB  43, describing  the  physical nature  and                                                              
biology of  the geoduck as  being a bi-valve, harvestable  product                                                              
of  approximately seven  inches/two  pounds, non-predatory  filter                                                              
feeder,  sedentary/non-transient  species,  which  inhabits  tidal                                                              
mud flats  to depths of 350  feet.  The geoduck  achieves maturity                                                              
in  five to  seven years,  but  its life  span  is 140-163  years.                                                              
Further,  he  explained  that the  species  is  basically  disease                                                              
free, with  the ability  to migrate any  invasive microbes  to the                                                              
exterior of  its shell.   The geoduck  range includes  the Pacific                                                              
Northwest coasts  of Washington,  British Columbia,  and southeast                                                              
Alaska.  The bill  specifies that ADF&G cannot use  the absence of                                                              
wild  geoduck populations  in  an area,  to  deny a  [mariculture]                                                              
permit.  This species  does exist in Alaska, and  outside stock is                                                              
not permitted for import, unlike oysters.  He explained that the                                                                
animal begins life as a larvae, settles to become spat, and                                                                     
develops into the marketable seed.                                                                                              
10:46:14 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON continued his presentation of HB 43,                                                                      
paraphrasing from the sponsor statement, which read as follows                                                                  
[original punctuation provided]:                                                                                                
     Mariculture   has  the   potential   to  diversify   the                                                                   
     economic  base of  coastal communities  impacted by  the                                                                   
     changing  dynamics  of  the  fishing industry.    HB  43                                                                   
     allows this  expansion of this  clean water  industry by                                                                   
     permitting  geoducks to  be  farmed sub  tidally in  the                                                                   
     Gulf of  Alaska even if  wild geoducks are  not present.                                                                   
     The  bill  does  not exempt  farmers  from  any  health,                                                                   
     safety,  or   other  transfer  provisions   relating  to                                                                   
     hatchery seed.                                                                                                             
     The  Alutiiq  Pride  Shellfish   Hatchery  is  the  only                                                                   
     hatchery  that supplies  mariculture  spat  and seed  in                                                                   
     the  State.   It  was initiated  by the  State  to be  a                                                                   
     self-sustaining   operation  in  association   with  the                                                                   
     private  mariculture  farms   permitted  by  the  State.                                                                   
     Their  business  plan  relies  on the  sale  of  geoduck                                                                   
     seed.   However, the informal  policy of the  Department                                                                   
     of  Fish  and  Game prevents  geoduck  seed  from  being                                                                   
     utilized   by  farms  anywhere   outside  of   southeast                                                                   
     Alaska.   These  restrictions  on  the sale  of  geoduck                                                                   
     seed  cause  the  sole  hatchery   for  the  mariculture                                                                   
     industry in  Alaska to require continual subsidy  by the                                                                   
     State.   HB 43  will allow  the mariculture industry  to                                                                   
     develop   around  the  Gulf   of  Alaska,  providing   a                                                                   
     potentially  strong market for  seed and private  sector                                                                   
     financing for the operation of the hatchery.                                                                               
     As non-mobile  filter feeders, farmed geoducks  will not                                                                   
     prey  on any  local commercial,  sport  or personal  use                                                                   
     fish.     There  have   been  no   reports  of   species                                                                   
     displacement  in sedimentary  habitat by geoduck  clams.                                                                   
     Farmed  geoducks   will  not  interfere   with  personal                                                                   
     recreational  boaters  as  they are  cultivated  in  the                                                                   
     sediment below  low tide and without the  numerous buoys                                                                   
     and   floating  cages   used  in  oyster   farms.     No                                                                   
     infectious  disease  has  been identified  in  any  wild                                                                   
     geoduck  population or  the  geoduck farming  industries                                                                   
     of Washington, British Columbia, or Alaska.                                                                                
     The conflict  surrounding geoducks  in southeast  Alaska                                                                   
     is between  the dive  fishermen who  harvest wild  stock                                                                   
     and  farmers who  wish to  farm in  areas with  existing                                                                   
     wild stock.   HB  43 would  evade this conflict  because                                                                   
     there  is no  wild stock  in  the proposed  area.   This                                                                   
     bill  will  not  override   any  Department  of  Natural                                                                   
     Resources  farm site  leasing  or Department  of Fish  &                                                                   
     Game permit regulation.                                                                                                    
     HB 43  eliminates unnecessary  hindrances to the  growth                                                                   
     of  the  mariculture  industry  in  Alaska  providing  a                                                                   
     potential   alternative   economic  base   for   coastal                                                                   
     communities while  adequately considering the  health of                                                                   
     our marine ecosystem.                                                                                                      
10:52:08 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON, referring  to an  often asked question  of                                                              
whether  the  geoduck  will supplant  animals,  such  as  polycyte                                                              
worms and  other benthos activity,  said that it appears  there is                                                              
no displacement,  and that the eco  diversity is increased  by the                                                              
geoducks presence.   Farming this  species may provide  year-round                                                              
ocean farming jobs, he opined.                                                                                                  
10:53:32 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ asked what is the size of a typical farm.                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON replied  that  a farm  is  limited to  five                                                              
acres,  the  same  limitation  that  DNR  allows  for  other  farm                                                              
permits.  This  does not change any basic regulations  required by                                                              
DNR or  ADF&G.   He pointed out  the letters  of support  from the                                                              
Alutiiq  Pride Shellfish  Hatchery and  Alaskan Shellfish  Growers                                                              
Association,  in the committee  packet, and  touted that  there is                                                              
no competition occurring  between companies, just a  desire to see                                                              
this  budding  industry  unfold.   However,  these  are  the  most                                                              
valuable clams  on the  market today,  commanding prices  that far                                                              
exceed  other shellfish:   $30.00  to $125.00  each in the  retail                                                              
Asian market.                                                                                                                   
10:55:03 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE BUCH  asked for a  description of the  geoduck farm                                                              
harvesting process.                                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  pointed  out  that  this  bill  calls  for                                                              
subtidal farms,  which are harvested  by shallow water  divers, at                                                              
a depth under 35  feet.  Referring to the handout,  he paraphrased                                                              
from the  description to  say that the  "hookah" divers  utilize a                                                              
high pressure  pump [streaming  50 gallons  per minute  to liquefy                                                              
the  sediment around  the  geoduck,] which  is  then extracted  by                                                              
hand.  In  planting the seed,  a plastic tube is  embedded upright                                                              
in  the sand,  the  seed is  dropped  down, and  a  net is  rubber                                                              
banded over  the end of the tube  to guard against debris.   After                                                              
a year the tubes are pulled, and the bay appears undisturbed.                                                                   
10:57:45 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE BUCH  asked for a  definition of subtidal,  and how                                                              
it is determined from intertidal.                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  responded, "Mean low, or low  water, is the                                                              
generally accepted;  out of the  intertidal range.  So  that which                                                              
would  not be  exposed  on any  of  the normal  low  tides."   The                                                              
purpose of  the bill is to  eliminate the concern  for interaction                                                              
between subsistence  or sport  harvest activities  of clams.   The                                                              
geoduck  will only  be grown  in  water depths  where hookah  gear                                                              
will be used for harvest.                                                                                                       
10:59:06 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE BUCH cited the coldness of the Alaskan water.                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON offered that  using a  dry suit  makes cold                                                              
water diving plausible.                                                                                                         
10:59:50 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ  clarified that  the activity of  growing and                                                              
harvesting  these clams  occurs below  the surface,  and does  not                                                              
disturb or impose barriers on the surface.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  affirmed that all activity  is accomplished                                                              
in the substrate.   In an oyster farm, the nets  are suspended and                                                              
the  surface  area  is  occupied,   causing  conflict  with  other                                                              
activities.   He noted  that Kachemak  Bay is  a critical  habitat                                                              
area, which  does not  allow bottom farming,  and would  be exempt                                                              
from the  benefit of  passing HB  43.  The  villages on  the outer                                                              
coast, however,  could benefit from  the possibility of this  as a                                                              
valuable economic base.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ  reported that the high school  in Metlakatla                                                              
teaches  diving  specifically  because   of  the  geoduck  farming                                                              
industry and opportunities in that area.                                                                                        
11:02:46 AM                                                                                                                   
RON JOSEPHSON,  Section Chief, Statewide Hatchery  and Mariculture                                                              
Program, Division  of Commercial  Fisheries, Alaska  Department of                                                              
Fish and Game  (ADF&G), said that the department  is supportive of                                                              
continued mariculture  growth and the economic development  of the                                                              
industry.   The  development must  be  balanced with  the need  to                                                              
facilitate  programs   that  offer   protection  to   the  natural                                                              
resources.   The department is officially  neutral on HB  43, with                                                              
specific   concerns   regarding   the  bills   intent   including:                                                              
allowing  unconstrained  transfer and  culturing  of geoduck  into                                                              
Southcentral Alaska  subtidal areas.   This would be  analogous to                                                              
an invasive  species transfer,  he opined, and  given the  lack of                                                              
information  the possible  impacts  cannot be  foreseen.   Despite                                                              
predictions,  the stock  may become  productive,  and the  natural                                                              
food web could  be at risk.   He cited how zebra mussel  and green                                                              
crab species  have triggered  an alert,  due to their  progression                                                              
north.  He  provided the committee  copies of a larval  drift zone                                                              
map,  and  said  that  the  department's   current  policy  allows                                                              
mariculture  seed source  to be  obtained only  from animals  that                                                              
occur within  their identified zone.   Thus, transporting  geoduck                                                              
seed from  the Southeast Zone 1,  to Southcentral Zone  2 would be                                                              
considered   an   introduction   of  species   and   contrary   to                                                              
departmental policy.                                                                                                            
11:06:59 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  KAWASAKI referred  to the  sponsor statement,  and                                                              
read,  "However, the  informal policy  of the  Department of  Fish                                                              
and  game prevents  geoduck  seed  from  being utilized  by  farms                                                              
anywhere outside  of southeast Alaska."   He asked the  sponsor to                                                              
state the informal policy.                                                                                                      
MR.  JOSEPHSON   declined  to  offer   a  determination   on  what                                                              
constitutes a formal or informal policy in this regard.                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  responded   that  the  larval  drift  zone                                                              
prohibition is  not in regulation,  but held  as a policy.   These                                                              
zones  are used  to  minimize  genetic interference,  however,  in                                                              
this case, there  is no competing genetic stock,  which presents a                                                              
different scenario.                                                                                                             
11:08:59 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  KAWASAKI determined  that the  study has  not been                                                              
completed on what  type of competition this species  might impose.                                                              
Referring to  a 1,000 page report,  he said only a small  note has                                                              
been included on the species invasive possibilities.                                                                            
11:10:13 AM                                                                                                                   
MR. JOSEPHSON  recognized  that the British  Columbia drift  zones                                                              
were  established for  the same  reasons mentioned.   He  stressed                                                              
the  need  for  caution  when  dealing   with  the  complex  ocean                                                              
environment.  Many  species are difficult to observe  and study in                                                              
an ocean setting.                                                                                                               
11:11:27 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  MUNOZ   queried  if  examples  exist   in  BC,  or                                                              
Washington  State,  of the  wild  stock  moving outside  of  their                                                              
natural waters.                                                                                                                 
MR. JOSEPHSON replied, "Not to my knowledge."                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  MUNOZ surmised  that the  stock generally  remains                                                              
in its natural area.                                                                                                            
MR.  JOSEPHSON  stressed  that  the answer  to  that  question  is                                                              
unknown.   In areas where the  animal already exists, there  is no                                                              
means  to determine  its origin,  or ascertain  if the  individual                                                              
clam was farm reared or naturally occurring.                                                                                    
11:12:38 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  BUCH referred  to the  drift zone  map, and  asked                                                              
how verification  is established for the existence  of the species                                                              
in a given  area.  Additionally,  what is the confidence  level of                                                              
the information gathered.                                                                                                       
MR.  JOSEPHSON reported  that the  department  surveys each  area,                                                              
and unusual or unique species are documented.                                                                                   
11:14:01 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER  asked  if   aquaculture  of  this  species                                                              
occurs in other areas of the world.                                                                                             
MR. JOSEPHSON stated  that the geoducks are unique  to the Pacific                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE   SEATON  clarified   that  Alaska   does  have   a                                                              
mariculture  farm rearing geoduck,  and they  are the  stocks that                                                              
would  be utilized  for populating  a  permitted farm.   He  asked                                                              
whether  the department  has  given  permits for  clam  population                                                              
enhancement in coastal areas.                                                                                                   
11:15:54 AM                                                                                                                   
MR. JOSEPHSON  stipulated that hard  shell permits are  allowed in                                                              
the specified  zones, utilizing the  local stocks [as  the genetic                                                              
source.]    The  department  considers  those  as  non  introduced                                                              
species.   The department  does  not have the  same comfort  level                                                              
for  allowing the  transport of  geoduck  stocks and  is taking  a                                                              
precautionary   approach;  considering   the  lack  of   knowledge                                                              
available.   He  suggested  that the  Southeast  geoduck farms  be                                                              
studied to  allow the department a  means for gaining a  degree of                                                              
confidence.   Further, he  clarified that  the larval  drift zones                                                              
do exist in regulation.                                                                                                         
11:17:23 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  JOHNSON  inquired  whether the  regulations  allow                                                              
research   to  be   conducted,  should   this  legislation   pass.                                                              
Wouldn't  a  permitted,  five  acre  test  bed  be  beneficial  in                                                              
solving some of  the "I don't knows," that surround  this species,                                                              
he asked.                                                                                                                       
MR.  JOSEPHSON  emphasized  that  this  clam  would  difficult  to                                                              
study,  outside of  a contained  area.   The hatchery  would be  a                                                              
helpful setting, however,  to study this in a  non controlled open                                                              
ocean setting would be nearly impossible, he opined.                                                                            
11:19:20 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON  theorized a  situation of this  clam being                                                              
farmed,  studied, and  at  some point  identified  as an  invasive                                                              
species.   What is the trigger  mechanism to indicate  "we've gone                                                              
too far," he asked.                                                                                                             
MR. JOSEPHSON  suggested that the  research could be  conducted in                                                              
the Southeast  drift zones  where these  animals exist  naturally.                                                              
The farms  in Southeast  are young,  and it  is indeterminate  how                                                              
they will  perform, and  what level of  success they  will attain.                                                              
The  department  would like  to  study  these endeavors  prior  to                                                              
introducing the species into another area.                                                                                      
11:22:19 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  JOHNSON asked  why  would a  pure scientific  test                                                              
could not  be conducted,  if a  farm were  established in  an area                                                              
known to be void of the species.                                                                                                
MR. JOSEPHSON  clarified  that the department  is not  undertaking                                                              
these tests,  the industry is by  being permitted.  The  farm will                                                              
establish   its  own  level   of  success   whenever  the   farmer                                                              
experiences a return/income on the investment.                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON  exclaimed, "Is that how we  manage all our                                                              
fisheries - if they just make a profit then they're OK?"                                                                        
11:24:00 AM                                                                                                                   
CYNTHIA PRING-HAM,  Mariculture Coordinator, Alaska  Department of                                                              
Fish & Game  (ADF&G), explained that specific regulations  in both                                                              
DNR and ADF&G,  require production to be increased  over time, and                                                              
also meet  a commercial use requirement  after five years.   It is                                                              
based on  acreage:  $3,000  per acre, or  a maximum of  $15,000 if                                                              
they have more  than five acres.  For most  mariculture endeavors,                                                              
that  would not  be  a difficult  achievement,  however,  geoducks                                                              
require several  years to reach  maturity or attain  a harvestable                                                              
size.   The  farming  efforts in  Southeast  have  not produced  a                                                              
marketable geoduck, to  date.  She pointed out that  the growth of                                                              
this species is slower in Alaska, than in warmer waters.                                                                        
11:25:25 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  JOHNSON   asked  how  a  farm  raised   animal  is                                                              
identified, if  it is within  a zone where  wild stock  spat could                                                              
also be present.                                                                                                                
MS. PRING-HAM  disclosed that the  exact identification  cannot be                                                              
ascertained unless dye is introduced; which is a possibility.                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON  stated confusion as to why  ADF&G would be                                                              
reluctant to  allow private  industry to  initiate a project  that                                                              
the department  could monitor, at  minimal cost to the  state, and                                                              
tax  payers.   It  appears to  be  a viable  means  to explore  an                                                              
economic opportunity.                                                                                                           
11:28:43 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE   SEATON  noted   that  the   department  has   not                                                              
indicated  that a  successful farm  in Southeast  would clear  the                                                              
way for  geoduck farms  elsewhere.   Also, a  major roadblock  for                                                              
getting     geoduck     farms     in    Southeast     has     been                                                              
contention/competition   with  the  harvest  of  wild   stock  and                                                              
commercial divers.   He  pointed out that  the department  has not                                                              
delineated  how  studies  of  Southeast  farms  will  provide  the                                                              
required  comfort   zone,  and  alleviate  concerns   for  further                                                              
development.   He  requested a  statement from  the department  to                                                              
answer the question:                                                                                                            
     How would  a successful  [geoduck] farm in  Southeastern                                                                   
     answer  your  questions  about larval  drift  zones  and                                                                   
     give you more  comfort about having [geoduck]  farms ...                                                                   
     outside of ... larval drift zone [number] one?                                                                             
MR.  JOSEPHSON  agreed  to  provide  further  information  to  the                                                              
11:30:50 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE BUCH  acknowledged the need for caution,  and asked                                                              
for  any   similar  examples   [of  species  introduction]   where                                                              
unintended consequences  have occurred.  He asked  if such caution                                                              
is based on previous experience.                                                                                                
MR.   JOSEPHSON  described   what   occurred   in  Flathead   Lake                                                              
[Montana].   The intent  was enhancement  of the existing  kokanee                                                              
fishery  by providing  an  abundant food  source,  and mysis  were                                                              
introduced.    However, the  mysis  larvae  compete for  the  same                                                              
plankton  food source  as the  emergent kokanee.   The  unintended                                                              
consequence has been  a lake full of the small  shrimp like mysis,                                                              
and the  loss of  the kokanee  fishery.   Additionally, given  the                                                              
size of the lake,  there does not appear to be  a means to reverse                                                              
the situation.                                                                                                                  
11:34:01 AM                                                                                                                   
JEFF HETRICK, Director,  Alutiiq Pride Shellfish  Hatchery, Alaska                                                              
Shellfish  Institute,  argued  that   the  geoduck  would  not  be                                                              
reproductive in South  Central Alaska, similar to  the oyster that                                                              
is farmed  in Southcentral.   Geoduck  culture is currently  being                                                              
practiced in Mexico,  and China is beginning to  enter the market.                                                              
He has  also been  contacted by  British Columbia,  which  has one                                                              
hatchery in  the southern  area.  He  indicated that  the industry                                                              
supports maintaining the genetic zones.                                                                                         
11:36:51 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  asked Mr.  Hetrick to address  the economic                                                              
viability of  Alutiiq, as the  only state certified  hatchery, and                                                              
the effects of geoduck farming being restricted to Southeast.                                                                   
MR.  HETRICK  provided  that  each   year  the  hatchery  requests                                                              
operational funding  from the legislature.   He predicted  that if                                                              
geoduck  seed sales  were allowed,  outside  of southeast  Alaska,                                                              
the  hatchery  could   become  self  sufficient.     The  hatchery                                                              
operating  plan  uses geoduck  seed  sales  for  a major  base  of                                                              
11:39:09 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER  stated  that  the  food  web  has  been  a                                                              
concern, and asked what might be interrupted by geoduck farming.                                                                
MR. HETRICK  responded that  the species  which could  be directly                                                              
effected  might  be  the  horseshoe  crab.   He  agreed  with  the                                                              
departmental  statement  that  the   food  web  is  a  complicated                                                              
11:40:30 AM                                                                                                                   
RODGER PAINTER,  President, Alaska Shellfish  Growers Association,                                                              
explained  that farm  size  is not  regulated  by the  department.                                                              
Five acres  is the  average size  for a geoduck  farm, but  a farm                                                              
could  be  any size.    He  pointed  out that  ADF&G  has  stocked                                                              
species,  of  various  types,  in   areas  where  they  would  not                                                              
otherwise exist,  in locales  throughout the  state.   The caution                                                              
for farming  geoduck has  not proven  to be  founded.   He pointed                                                              
out  that the  ocean is  a dynamic  force,  which changes  through                                                              
natural  occurrences  and  ranges.     He  cited  various  species                                                              
appearance/disappearance  that reflect  these changes.   In  terms                                                              
of viability  of a geoduck farm  in SE, he said, the  permits were                                                              
only issued  in the  last seven  years.  The  product has  not yet                                                              
been harvestable.                                                                                                               
MR. PAINTER, in  response to Representative Munoz,  explained that                                                              
the crops  are planted  annually, allowing  for continued  harvest                                                              
following  the  initial  crop,  which is  not  anticipated  to  be                                                              
11:45:57 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR EDGMON closed  public testimony and announced  that the bill                                                              
would be held.                                                                                                                  

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
CFEC--FroehlichCV.PDF HFSH 2/24/2009 10:15:00 AM
HB43--AquaticFarmingStatutes.PDF HFSH 2/24/2009 10:15:00 AM
HB 43
HB43-Sponsor Statement and Sectional.PDF HFSH 2/24/2009 10:15:00 AM
HB 43
HB43-What is a Geoduck.PDF HFSH 2/24/2009 10:15:00 AM
HB 43
HB43-Fish and Wildlife News.PDF HFSH 2/24/2009 10:15:00 AM
HB 43
HB43-SupportLtrs.PDF HFSH 2/24/2009 10:15:00 AM
HB 43