Legislature(1997 - 1998)
01/29/1998 01:25 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 285 - POINT SYSTEM FOR COMMERCIAL FISH VIOLATIO CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON announced the next order of business was House Bill No. 285, "An Act relating to suspension or revocation of commercial fishing permits and privileges." Number 0795 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN M. IVAN, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor of HB 285, explained there have been violations from the Bristol Bay side of the commercial fishery causing concerns and recommendations to address the problem. He read the following sponsor statement into the record: "This bill was introduced to address concerns of illegal fishing activities committed by commercial fishers throughout my district and other commercial fishing communities throughout Alaska. It has been said that some of these illegal activities become a philosophy among some fishers as the 'cost of doing business' should they be convicted for such activities. "The intent of this legislation before you is to establish a point system against a commercial fishing permit for a conviction of a violation of commercial fishing laws found under AS 16.05.723. Should 12 or more points be assessed against a permit during any consecutive 48 month period as a result of convictions of violations, the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission would then be given the authority to suspend the permit. The same is true for an accumulation of 16 or more points during any consecutive 60 month period. The commission would be able to revoke an entry or interim use permit if 18 or more points are accumulated during any consecutive 72 month period. And to encourage lawful fishing, two points will be deducted from the total points assessed against a permit if the permit holder is not convicted of a violation of commercial fishing laws during a 12 month period after the date of the last violation. "The bill outlines the suspension and revocation process, the notice and appeal process and the notification to the commission by the Department of Public Safety and the Court System. "Any points accumulated for commercial fishing violations will be assessed against the permit not the permit holder. Should the permit holder decide to transfer or sell the permit, all the points accumulated by the permit holder will stay with the permit thus providing a disincentive for a permit holder to transfer a permit should it be subject to suspension or revocation." Number 1006 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN explained, after introducing the legislation last spring, the bill was changed to place points against the person rather than the permit to alleviate problems during the revocation process. This was the result of discussions between Ivan's staff, the Alaska Commercial Fishing and Agriculture Bank (CFAB), the Division of Investments, and the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission. The main intent remains the same, however. REPRESENTATIVE IVAN further explained the original bill was drafted to aggressively arrive at a violation point system and fine to eliminate illegal fishing. This was not fair to commercial fishers who try to make the most out of fishing activities, lawfully. In addition, concerns in regard to default loans and lending institutions to encourage lawful fishing will be addressed later by CFAB. Representative Ivan further stated it is important to keep the fishing permits in the state as much as possible and to minimize the opportunity for outsiders to buy permits. It is also important to make opportunities equal for commercial fishing while trying to stop illegal fishing. There is a statute that addresses the issue but the fines are not enough to keep legal fishing lucrative. Number 1249 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked Representative Ivan whether the increase in fines would cover the additional cost of enforcement. He also asked how enforcement would be changed for violators. He supported the bill, but was concerned about the increase in litigation that would result. Number 1300 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN replied representatives from the enforcement side were here to respond to those types of questions. Number 1309 CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON announced the bill would not pass out of committee today. The intention is to try to understand the elements of the bill. The sponsor will probably come back with a substitute to reflect the concern of applying the violation to the person as opposed to the permit. Number 1398 BRUCE TWOMLEY, Chairman, Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission, Department of Fish and Game, stated the commission is intrigued by HB 285 because the idea emanated from local Bristol Bay fishermen. The idea is consistent with limited entry policies. The commission administers fishing privileges while the state reserves the right to revoke the privileges when conservation laws are not observed. There might be some cost, as Representative Green noted, for administering the bill. The commission is trying to get some definite information from the court system. It will present a fiscal note upon reviewing the bill as it evolves into a committee substitute. Number 1457 REPRESENTATIVE FRED DYSON asked Mr. Twomley what would happen if a permit was revoked and there is an outstanding balance on the loan. Number 1469 MR. TWOMLEY replied the current bill addresses the issue. There would be an opportunity for the lending institutions to be protected if there was a foreclosure. Number 1484 REPRESENTATIVE DYSON asked Mr. Twomley how the commission would handle the subterfuge of transferring a permit to a deck hand when it reached 10 points, for example. Number 1510 MR. TWOMLEY replied the commission is prepared to handle that type of subterfuge. The question, however, frames the basic issue about the bill - whether the points should be assessed against the individual or permit. If the points are assessed against the individual, it would address the subterfuge problem and make it easier for the commission to administer. It would be easier to track an individual rather than a permit. Number 1557 JOHN GLASS, Colonel, Director, Division of Fish and Wildlife Protection, Department of Public Safety, stated HB 285 came from a request of Bristol Bay fishermen to put the chronic offender out of business. The division strongly supports the bill because it would aid and assist the division. The division's original intent was to assess points against the permit thereby making it less valuable and setting a higher value on the cost of doing business. However, after discussions with Representative Ivan and staff members, the division would be willing to work out the best solution. Number 1611 COLONEL GLASS further stated, in reference to Representative Green's question, the division does not feel that the bill would impact them fiscally. There would be an impact on the court system, however, because there would be more litigation. Number 1642 REPRESENTATIVE REGGIE JOULE asked Colonel Glass whether there has been any thought given to penalizing both the permit and the individual. Number 1678 COLONEL GLASS replied he has not given the idea any thought, nor has the idea been a part of any discussions today. Number 1689 REPRESENTATIVE DYSON stated for the record he is a Bristol Bay permit holder and has been busted twice in the last twenty-five years. He never knew, however, whether he was guilty or not. REPRESENTATIVE DYSON further stated he supports strong enforcement and all the necessary deterrents to keep from fishing "over the line" deliberately. "What has disturbed me is it didn't seem to me in the past that the court fines were significantly different for a group of boats that were fishing middle-bluff in the middle of the night with no lights, and those who had an equipment failure or got gear in the prop and drifted over the line as they were desperately trying to fix it." The process has not been able to differentiate between conspirators and bad seamanship or equipment failure. He asked Colonel Glass whether there is a way to work on that end of the problem. Number 1753 COLONEL GLASS replied the division has been attempting to increase its efficiency and effectiveness in regards to the "lines" in Bristol Bay. The division is constantly and consistently changing its approach to business at the request of the fishers that participate there. "We're not perfect, but we're trying to respond to what their needs are to try to resolve that problem." In response to the courts, the judges have full authority to hear the stories and make decisions justly. The division just presents the cases to the judges. Discussions have been held with magistrates in the Bristol Bay area and headway has been made. Number 1794 REPRESENTATIVE DYSON stated the last time that he got busted he did not know about it until he returned to Anchorage where a state trooper stopped him to tell him a picture had been taken of him fishing over the line. There was no way he could recapture what went on that day in terms of the tide. He asked Colonel Glass whether the division would be doing those types of things in the future. Number 1822 COLONEL GLASS replied the division is trying all different sorts of things to resolve the over-the-line fishing problem. He would not say the division would not do that again because it might. Hopefully, the division would be more effective in getting a notice to him sooner. There are good ways to keep track of the tides, however. Number 1846 REPRESENTATIVE DYSON stated he appreciated the stealth operations of the division. He would like to modify the laws to help the division deal with intentional violations. Number 1876 COLONEL GLASS replied the division thinks HB 285 is a step in the right direction to help address those types of problems and concerns. Number 1908 ED CRANE, President, Alaska Commercial Fishing and Agriculture Bank (CFAB) testified via teleconference in Anchorage. The bank is one of only two entities with statutory authority to put a lien on limited entry permits and to secure loans on pledges of limited entry permits. The bank is very much in favor of the purpose of HB 285. The bank has discussed with Representative Ivan's office the unintended consequences of the bill as structured in regards to liens, and it is understood that the issue will be taken care of by attaching points to the individual rather than the permit. The intent of the bill is to get after the scofflaws and remove them from the fisheries. In addition, attaching points to individuals would take care of the issues of repeated transfers between individuals, fisheries, and selling a permit with points and buying a permit with no points. Number 2206 CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON announced HB 285 will be heard again when it more accurately reflects the interest of the parties involved. Number 2222 MIKE FRICERRO, Fisherman, testified via teleconference in Kodiak. He operates the fishing vessel "Rainy Dawn." He has been fishing in Egegik at the line for approximately 15 years with no violations. He supports HB 285 and its intent. It would be a big deterrent for the group of violators that he is accustomed to watching. It would be even more effective with the modifications mentioned earlier. He would like to see a differentiation between intentional violations and bad judgements. He would also like to see the problems with the loran system improve, otherwise it puts the enforcement personnel at a disadvantage. In addition, he would like to add a transfer period for district registration as a point violation and a warning for the first violation for both gear and boat markings. Lastly, he would like to see the appeals process address a prior record and intent before suspending a license. Number 2400 CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON thanked Mr. Fricerro for his constructive suggestions. Number 2413 MARK E. ANGASON, Commercial Fisherman, testified via teleconference in Naknek. He wrote a letter to Colonel Glass suggesting a point system against the boat and permit because the violations were getting worse. TAPE 98-3, SIDE B Number 0000 MR. ANGASON continued by stating the burden of fishing illegally should be placed upon the fishermen themselves. He would like to see a point system placed against the boat and individual, if it is not placed against the permit. Generally, illegal fishing is to help make a boat payment. "Well, it isn't my problem that they have such a huge boat payment, but that's the reason for them saying that they got to go over the line to catch more fish." It is wrong and the boat should be taken out of the fishery. Whatever is decided he would support, as-long-as, the points are severe enough to deter a person from fishing illegally. Number 0050 CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON stated it was an interesting thought to place a detriment on a boat or equipment. Number 0066 REPRESENTATIVE DYSON suggested to the committee members to look at Mr. Angason's written suggestions on modifying the violation point system. They are reasonable and worth paying attention to. Number 0094 JOE McGILL, President, Bristol Bay Herring Marketing Cooperative, testified via teleconference in Dillingham. He has been fishing in Bristol Bay for fifty seasons without a violation. He does not mean he is incapable of getting one. He is opposed to HB 285. It is aimed strictly at Bristol Bay when some of the worst violations are in Area M. In addition, the mandatory points/regulations just mean a lot more litigation when the legislature should really fund more money for enforcement. More enforcement would allow for more fines to be collected eventually paying for itself. Number 0160 JERRY McCUNE, Representative, United Fishermen of Alaska; President, Cordova District Fishermen United, cautioned the haste to regulate one fishery when other fisheries are different. In response to attaching a violation to a boat, some are worth $100,000, some are worth $50,000, while some are worth $500,000. "I wouldn't get too hasty on looking at that one." Points should be attached to an individual noting whether or not he or she has a permit. In response to multiple permit holders, an individual would have to choose between fisheries, unless it was in somebody else's name. Therefore, he would like to see the points stuck to the fishery where the violation occurred. MR. McCUNE referred the committee members to page 2, line 3, subsection (b), "(1) fishing in closed waters - 6 points," and stated the violation needs to be clarified more. There are closed waters, line fisheries, and moving lines. For example, in Prince William Sound there are three different lines around a hatchery. MR. McCUNE referred the committee members to page 2, line 3, subsection (b), "(3) fishing with more than the legal amount of gear - 6 points," and stated in some areas gear is hung by someone else. MR. McCUNE referred the committee members to page 2, line 3, subsection (b), "(6) fishing with more than the legal amount of gear on vessel - 4 points," and stated it is obvious when people are fishing with more gear than necessary. MR. McCUNE stated he was primarily concerned with Prince William Sound where people hang their gear and suggested a warning rather than a six-point violation. He announced he would work with the sponsor to ensure the bill addresses the issues statewide, not just one area. Number 0310 CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON reiterated it is not his intention to move HB 285 from the committee today. More work is needed. Number 0325 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked Co-Chairman Hudson, if the bill was written so that the points accrued against an individual, would the individual be able to fish as a crew member on a different boat or his or her own boat. CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON replied it is an important distinction and needs to be addressed. He suggested putting all concerns and questions into writing and forwarding them to the prime sponsor of the bill. CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON announced HB 285 will be held over for further consideration.