Legislature(2017 - 2018)GRUENBERG 120
03/07/2017 10:00 AM FISHERIES
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HB 128-SHELLFISH ENHANCE. PROJECTS; HATCHERIES 11:26:37 AM CHAIR STUTES announced that the final order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 128, "An Act relating to management of enhanced stocks of shellfish; authorizing certain nonprofit organizations to engage in shellfish enhancement projects; relating to application fees for salmon hatchery permits; and providing for an effective date." 11:27:10 AM REPRESENTATIVE DANIEL ORTIZ, Alaska State Legislature, presented HB 128, paraphrasing from the sponsor statement, which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: Enhancement of Alaska's shellfish industry holds the potential of expanded economic opportunities in Alaska's coastal communities and increased resilience of the State's fisheries portfolio. To tap this potential HB 128 allows qualified non- profits to pursue enhancement and/or restoration projects involving shellfish species including red and blue king crab, sea cucumber, abalone, and razor clams. The bill creates a regulatory framework with which Alaska Department of Fish & Game can manage shellfish enhancement projects and outlines criteria for issuance of permits. It sets out stringent safety standards to ensure sustainability and health of existing natural stocks. The Commissioner of ADF&G must also make a determination of substantial public benefit before a project can proceed. In addition, the bill sets the application fee for a shellfish enhancement project at $1,000 and amends the application fee for a salmon hatchery permit, increasing the fee from $100 to $1,000. HB 128 plays an important role in the development of mariculture in Alaska by providing a method to increase the available harvest of shellfish for public use in an environmentally safe manner. 11:31:04 AM CHAIR STUTES opened public testimony. 11:31:32 AM FORREST BOWERS, Deputy Director, Division of Commercial Fisheries, Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G), explained the difference between mariculture and shellfish fishery enhancement projects. The later refers to wild stock enhancement for common property fisheries. The mariculture projects are related to existing shellfish spawn programs. Overlap is inherent in certain aspects of the two projects. 11:32:41 AM REPRESENTATIVE KREISS-TOMKINS asked about the genetic dynamics of shellfish enhancement and the management that the department would anticipate; similar to the consideration given wild salmon enhancement. MR. BOWERS responded that a policy is in place and requires that baseline work be performed to gain an understanding of the local stocks, genetic make-up and distribution, as well as the drift zone distribution that the shellfish, as broadcast spawners, would effect. Genetic concerns would also need to be addressed. 11:34:49 AM REPRESENTATIVE FANSLER asked if there is a strict definition that the department follows to identify enhancement versus rehabilitation of stocks. MR. BOWERS acknowledged that the terms are often discussed in a seemingly interchangeable manner. However, when referring to rehabilitation the effort being made is to rebuild a wild stock to its natural reproductive potential. Enhancement means to identify a stock that is already at healthy levels and increase its production significantly beyond what would otherwise occur in the wild, thus, providing additional harvest opportunity. 11:37:18 AM HEATHER MCCARTY, Representative, Central Bering Sea Fisherman's Association (CBSFA), said, located on St. Paul Island, CBSFA is the smallest of the six community development quota (CDQ) program groups in the western region of Alaska. The mission of the CDQ program is to support economic development in coastal communities, particularly in the area of fisheries. As such, CBSFA, holds a considerable quota in the federal crab program in the Bering Sea, and has been a participant in the Alaska King Crab Research, Rehabilitation and Biology (AKCRRAB) program since its inception in 2006, which has a mission to rehabilitate the stocks of the Gulf of Alaska red king crab and the Bering Sea/Pribilof Island blue king crab. The program has depended on hatchery production of juvenile crab, produced under a research permit, and no other type of permit is currently available to allow the production of larger amounts of enhancement stocks for a fishery that has dwindled to the point of being unfishable for the last 25 years. She stressed the need for passage of HB 128 in order to take the next step in the CBSFA mission; rehabilitate of king crab stocks. Without the legislation, there is no means for facilities to produce juvenile crab to serve the purposes of that mission. GINNY ECKERT, PhD, Professor, University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), stated support for HB 128, paraphrasing from a prepared statement, which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: The Steering Committee of the Alaska King Crab Research, Rehabilitation and Biology (AKCRRAB) program would like to express appreciation and support for House Bill 128. The AKCRRAB program is a coalition of university, federal and stakeholder groups, formed in 2006 with the goals of adding to the scientific understanding of crab life history and ecology, as well as the eventual rehabilitation of depressed king crab stocks in Alaska. AKCRRAB is developing scientifically sound strategies for hatching, rearing and outplanting king crab in Alaska, in order to help restore populations to self-sustainable levels. In phase one, from 2006 to 2011, AKCRRAB researchers made significant accomplishments in developing and improving methods of hatchery rearing of larval and juvenile king crab from wild-caught brood stock, to the point where large-scale production is feasible. Parallel field and laboratory studies of crab ecology and population genetics were also conducted during this time. In the second and current phase, hatchery studies have been complemented by studies essential to understanding optimal release strategies, appropriate habitat, and potential impact on existing ecosystems. This research is providing the science necessary for informing the responsible release of hatchery-reared animals. Increased knowledge will allow scientists and managers to assess the feasibility of ecologically sound rehabilitation of depressed stocks, with potentially substantial benefits to Alaska. In the third and final phase, AKCRRAB intends to evolve from the current, research-oriented coalition, to a formal entity focused on transitioning hatchery techniques and outplanting technologies to communities and industry as part of statewide efforts to help rehabilitate depleted king crab stocks. As phase three develops, the program will require support and guidance from the State of Alaska, as the transition from feasibility to implementation will need to be guided with a new regulatory structure. House Bill 128, similar to last year's House Bill 300, is a response to the need for new regulations for shellfish culture. The AKCRRAB Steering Committee is pleased that the Legislature is addressing this need. We intend to participate fully in further discussions and hearings on this important legislation. The AKCRRAB Steering Committee stands ready to interact with Committee members and staff as needed. Please let us know how we can be of help. 11:42:17 AM REPRESENTATIVE KREISS-TOMKINS inquired about successful case studies of shellfish enhancement occurring elsewhere in the world. DR. ECKERT said that the enhancement of European lobster in Norway has proven successful. REPRESENTATIVE KREISS-TOMKINS queried whether there are examples specific to king crab. DR. ECKERT responded that the Russians introduced king crab into the Barents Sea and created a vibrant fishery. REPRESENTATIVE KREISS-TOMKINS noted that the Barents Sea program represented an introduction of a species to an area versus restoration or enhancement of an existing stock. He asked whether there are any biologic, genetic, or other scientific concerns around shellfish species propagation that the committee should be made aware of, in consideration of the proposed legislation. DR. ECKERT answered that genetics are always a consideration in a hatchery, and every effort is made to expand the genetic diversity of the pool of animals being reared. It is an essential step that Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) regulates. The bill stipulates that the adult/parent brood stock will be taken from the area to which they are native, in order to not disrupt the local gene pool. MS. MCCARTY added that genetics is a focus and concern in the development of the king crab enhancement project being conducted by AKCRRAB, and the department has been integral to the effort. An entire research section has been dedicated to that purpose alone. REPRESENTATIVE KREISS-TOMKINS commented that the report on the scope of the work being conducted speaks loudly to the diligence that is being brought to the subject at hand, and he stated support for the bill. 11:47:39 AM JULIE DECKER, Executive Director, Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation (AFDF), states support for HB 128, paraphrasing from a prepared statement, which read, in part, as follows [original punctuation provided]: AFDF is the Client for seafood sustainability certification programs such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Alaska Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) program. As the Client and facilitator for these certification programs, AFDF has a unique viewpoint on this issue. As a part of these certifications, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game's (ADF&G) management of the salmon fishery (including salmon enhancement) is reviewed every year by independent third-party experts to determine whether it meets internationally accepted standards for sustainably managed fisheries. Alaska salmon maintains the Alaska RFM certification, because ADF&G's management incorporates a precautionary approach that prioritizes wild fish and minimizes adverse impacts to wild stocks. ADF&G has extensive enhancement policies which protect wild stocks (e.g. genetics, marking, and disease). Given these policies, AFDF and independent third-parties experts have confidence that ADF&G is fulfilling its constitutional mandate to manage the State's fishery resources for sustainability. AFDF is confident that ADF&G would manage shellfish enhancement with the same priority to wild stocks, therefore, AFDF support HB 128 which will give ADF&G the authority and regulatory framework to manage shellfish enhancement. 11:49:44 AM REPRESENTATIVE KREISS-TOMKINS asked where the primary perspective shellfish enhancement activity in Alaska might take place, and with which species. MS. DECKER answered that the two groups furthest along on the research side for enhancement are the programs undertaken by the AKCRRAB, on king crab, and the Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association, for sea cucumber. 11:50:53 AM NANCY HILLSTRAND, Pioneer Alaskan Fisheries Inc., stated opposition to HB 128, paraphrasing from a prepared statement, which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: Please be very cautious with this bill so all facts and figures are on the table. Present salmon legislation is 42 years old. These multiple statutes and regulations are obsolete in many ways because they do not reflect what we have learned over these 4 decades of time. In the 1976 ADFG Annual Report, the then Commissioner admitted that we had been over harvesting crab and shrimp. The harvest levels take populations over the thresholds of sustainability to withstand other mortality factors like predation, female male size restraints, etc. Another danger especially with our budget as it is. Monitoring is scanty and there is no money to perform sustainably. All oversight rests on one man...the ADFG commissioner. There needs to be an unbiased oversight Board that can see all angles of this biological introduction into our ecosystems. Before we "just add fish"...Preliminary information is required. We first need information on all interacting limiting mortality factors of wild shellfish in their nursery grounds. For instance ? what are the predators in these near shore nurseries? ? have we identified and mapped the critical shellfish nurseries in Alaska? ? are there introduced magnitudes of hatchery pink salmon in these nurseries? ? do the introduced magnitudes of hatchery fish draw in or cause a "swamping" of additional depredation creating a predator pit on shellfish larvae and mega lops? There has been concern in California that hatchery coho held some responsibility in the crash of their Dungeness crab fishery in San Francisco. The Barents Sea had an introduction of King Crab that created competition with traditional fisheries. 11:53:19 AM TONI MARSH, President, OceansAlaska, stated support for HB 128, paraphrasing from a prepared statement, which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: HB 128 creates a regulatory framework with which ADF&G can manage shellfish fishery enhancement, restoration and shellfish hatcheries. This will allow interested stakeholders to either continue or begin enhancement and/or restoration of certain species. OceansAlaska supports HB 128 as it will diversify economic development, sustain cultural legacy and increase environmental stewardship through: 1. Enhancement of traditional and economically important shellfish species. 2. Enhancement of shellfish species integral to marine ecosystems and habitat restoration. 3. Enhancement of shellfish species that are vital to climate change and pollution mitigation. Thank you for your support of HB 128 and the mariculture industry. 11:54:27 AM JOHN KISER, Owner, Rocky Bay Oysters, stated support for HB 128 with reserved concern regarding the private mariculture operations as opposed to the state run hatcheries. Cost recovery operations should not come into conflict with the individual farming businesses, which can be accomplished via regulation of the species allowed to be grown. 11:55:53 AM MILO ATKINSON, Professor, University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), encouraged the committee to focus on maintaining oversight and protection of wild stocks, by reinforcing the need for diligence with ADF&G. He reiterated the need to be clear about the difference between enhancement and mariculture. As previously noted, the potential exists for negative effects to occur regarding interbreeding of hatchery reared and wild stocks, as well as possible overharvest of wild stocks when reared stocks are taken. Unlike salmon, the potential for damage is much higher, he opined, and said strong oversight will need to be practiced by the department. CHAIR STUTES closed public testimony. 11:58:53 AM MARY HAKALA, Staff, Representative Dan Ortiz, Alaska State Legislature, provided the sectional analysis, paraphrasing from a prepared statement, which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: Sec. 1 Provides the Alaska Board of Fisheries authority to direct the department to manage production of enhanced shellfish stocks, beyond brood stock needs, for cost recovery harvest. Sec. 2 Increases the permit application fee for new private nonprofit salmon hatcheries from $100 to $1,000. Sec. 3 Adds a new Chapter 12 to Title 16, "Shellfish Stock Enhancement Projects". Provides direction to the commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game on issuance of permits for private nonprofit shellfish fishery enhancement projects and establishes a $1,000 permit application fee. This section directs the commissioner to consult with technical experts in the relevant areas before permit issuance. This section provides for a hearing prior to issuance of a permit and describes certain permit terms including cost recovery fisheries, harvest, sale, and release of enhancement project produced shellfish, and selection of brood stock sources. This section describes reporting requirements and terms for modification or revocation of a permit. It specifies that shellfish produced under an approved enhancement project are a common property resource, with provision for special harvest areas by permit holders. Sec. 4 Provides Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission authority to issue special harvest area entry permits to holders of private nonprofit shellfish rehabilitation, or enhancement project permits. Sec. 5 Defines legal fishing gear for special harvest area entry permit holders. Sec. 6 Exempts shellfish raised in a private nonprofit shellfish project from the farmed fish definition. Sec. 7 and 8 Establish state corporate income tax exemption for a nonprofit corporation holding a shellfish fishery enhancement permit. Sec. 9 Exempts shellfish harvested under a special harvest area entry permit from seafood development taxes. Sec. 10 Establishes an effective date for the salmon hatchery permit application fee described in sec. 2. Sec. 11 Authorizes the Department of Fish and Game to adopt implementing regulations. Sec. 12 Establishes an immediate effective date for sec. 11 pursuant to AS 01.10.070(c). Sec. 13 Establishes an effective date for sec. 8 concomitant with sec. 2, Chapter 55, SLA 2013 12:01:38 PM MS. HAKALA referred to the bill, page 2, Subsection (e), lines 28-30, and the language which reads: The commissioner may not issue a permit under this section unless the commissioner determines that the action would result in substantial public benefits and would not jeopardize natural stocks. MS. HAKALA pointed out that additional language [page 4, lines 13-19] establishes a course of action for permit termination should the commissioner find that an operation is not proceeding in the best public interest. Thus, the bill ensures that the department has teeth to maintain accountability among permit holders, she stressed. CHAIR STUTES announced HB 128 as held.