Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 124

03/21/2005 01:00 PM RESOURCES

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Heard & Held
Moved CSHJR 15(RES) Out of Committee
Scheduled But Not Heard
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
HJR 15-OPEN OCEAN AQUACULTURE                                                                                                 
CO-CHAIR SAMUELS announced that the  next order of business would                                                               
be  HOUSE  JOINT  RESOLUTION  NO.  15,  Relating  to  open  ocean                                                               
aquaculture in the federal exclusive economic zone.                                                                             
IAN  FISK,  Staff to  Representative  Bill  Thomas, Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature, said  there is draft federal  legislation that would                                                               
allow open ocean aquaculture.   The fishing industry has numerous                                                               
concerns, he  said, including disease  transmission, antibiotics,                                                               
damage  to  the  environment  by  anoxic  conditions  created  by                                                               
overfeeding,  health of  farmed fish  to consumers,  escapes into                                                               
the  natural  environment  of  non-native  species,  and  use  of                                                               
genetically modified organisms.   He added that  there are socio-                                                               
economic  concerns about  impacts to  existing fisheries  and the                                                               
communities and  businesses that depend  on them.  Mr.  Fisk said                                                               
the federal exclusive economic zone  as all federal waters from 3                                                               
miles  to the  200-mile limit.   He  said Alaska's  fisheries are                                                               
soundly  managed  now  for sustainability  and  maximum  resource                                                               
value.   Alaskans  are the  primary participants  in the  state's                                                               
fisheries, and  much of the  economic benefits stay in  the state                                                               
and  spread  through  communities, local  businesses,  and  state                                                               
MR. FISK  said the legislature  banned fin fish farming  in state                                                               
waters in 1990, and HJR 15  refers to federal waters.  Since 1990                                                               
the international  fish farming industry  has caused harm  to the                                                               
state's fisheries,  but "we are  starting to see the  benefits of                                                               
sticking to our  guns," because Alaska has carved out  a niche in                                                               
the world market, which is  producing better fish prices based on                                                               
Alaska's natural and  healthy fish products.  "We've  made a name                                                               
for ourselves," he said.                                                                                                        
2:15:49 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. FISK said  the committee substitute (CS) adds  a resolve that                                                               
the legislature opposes  open ocean aquaculture for  fin fish and                                                               
predator  shellfish  in  the  waters off  Alaska,  and  it  urges                                                               
Congress  to  prohibit  the  use  of  genetically  modified  fish                                                               
anywhere in  the United States  exclusive economic zone.   The CS                                                               
also  states  support  for   the  regional  fisheries  management                                                               
councils,  and requests  that the  councils be  granted authority                                                               
over any  proposals regarding open  ocean aquaculture  in federal                                                               
2:16:52 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON moved  to adopt CS HJR  15(FSH) version 24-                                                               
LS0631\Y, Utermohle, 3/21/05, as a work draft.                                                                                  
There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  asked  why,  on   page  3,  line  9,  the                                                               
resolution requests a  legislative environmental impact statement                                                               
(EIS), if it is already required by law.                                                                                        
MR. FISK said the Administrator  of the National Marine Fisheries                                                               
Service has said that an EIS will not be required.                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  pointed out the sentence  in the resolution                                                               
that prohibits  genetically modified fish, "what  would happen if                                                               
we wound  up with  devastating diseases to  the entire  stock and                                                               
the  virtual elimination  of  any  kind of  fishery,  but it  was                                                               
possible,  with  the  introduction  of  a  gene,  to  build  some                                                               
resistance into the fish.  This  prohibits us from saving our own                                                               
fishery," he said.                                                                                                              
MR. FISK said Alaska's fish  stocks are very biologically diverse                                                               
and,  in  the  case  of   salmon,  they  are  very  abundant  and                                                               
ubiquitous, so  there is  a very  small risk  for such  an event.                                                               
The bigger  risk, he  said, is if  we allow  genetically modified                                                               
organisms into  net pens  that are  prone to  failure.   He added                                                               
that the introduction of unnatural  fish is the biggest threat to                                                               
natural stock.                                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO asked what was prone to failure.                                                                           
MR. FISH  clarified that net pens  fail.  "We've seen  the escape                                                               
of lots  of farmed fish  from farms in  British Columbia.   If we                                                               
allowed  genetically-modified  organisms,  in my  opinion,  we're                                                               
just playing with fire," he said.                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO   said  his   concern  is  that   "the  way                                                               
biological  systems go,  you introduce  a  predator, and  they're                                                               
very  efficient at  what they  do, and  especially when  you have                                                               
this incredible food  supply.  If, indeed, we  had something that                                                               
was so  attractive to a predator,  that we were simply  losing so                                                               
many fish  that there wasn't any  sense to fish any  more, but we                                                               
could make the  fish bigger so they couldn't eat  it, or make the                                                               
fish resistant to a bacteria or  a virus ... so they wouldn't die                                                               
from it,  wouldn't that be detrimental  if we said we  can't save                                                               
the fish by saving  them?  That's the concern that  I see in that                                                               
one statement," he said.                                                                                                        
MR. FISK said Representative Gatto's  concern is "so nightmarish"                                                               
he doesn't  know how to  respond to it.   "If  we get to  a point                                                               
where our natural stocks are to  that level of depletion, I would                                                               
hate to think that we would  have to engineer the entire response                                                               
to it," he said.                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO said pike  are effective predators; "they're                                                               
good at  what they do  and they enjoy doing  it.  If,  indeed, we                                                               
had  a pike-like  situation where  we're losing  our stocks  like                                                               
crazy, and somebody says there isn't  any way to save these guys"                                                               
unless  we genetically  modify them,  then, "nightmarish  or not,                                                               
we're making legislation that could make a nightmare," he said.                                                                 
CO-CHAIR RAMRAS asked how much  a wild Alaska fish costs compared                                                               
to a farmed fish.                                                                                                               
MR. FISK said he guesses wild  Alaska salmon retails for 40 to 50                                                               
percent more  than farmed fish.   That  is just salmon,  he said,                                                               
and any other  number of species could be farmed.   Alaska's fish                                                               
get  a premium  price because  of  the name  association and  the                                                               
inherent  quality  that Alaska's  system  produces.   "Our  whole                                                               
management  system  is  considered  world class,"  he  said,  and                                                               
farmed Alaska fish will confuse the market place.                                                                               
CO-CHAIR RAMRAS  asked the  difference between  a hatchery  and a                                                               
fish farm,  and if a hatchery  were to keep fish  until they were                                                               
bigger, would they be considered farmed fish.                                                                                   
MR. FISK  said hatcheries only  assist fish through a  very early                                                               
stage of their lives, and they  spend their entire adult lives as                                                               
any other fish would.                                                                                                           
CO-CHAIR RAMRAS asked if farmed fish are kept in pens.                                                                          
MR. FISK said farmed  fish have to be kept in  pens and fed until                                                               
they are marketable.                                                                                                            
CO-CHAIR RAMRAS  said the  Douglas Island  Pink and  Chum (DIPAC)                                                               
fish hatchery  in Juneau sees  a two  to three percent  return of                                                               
their fish, and he asked if farmed fish have a higher return.                                                                   
MR. FISK said,  "Definitely.  The fish don't have  to compete and                                                               
behave like  a real  fish, they  just sit  there ...  like salmon                                                               
cows, fattening  up, living  close to  each other,  festering and                                                               
getting diseased,  instead of being like  a real fish out  in the                                                               
ocean competing and becoming robust like our own wild fish."                                                                    
2:27:21 PM                                                                                                                    
PAULA  TERREL, Alaska  Marine Conservation  Council (AMCC),  said                                                               
she fishes commercially, but she  is representing the AMCC, which                                                               
works  with  coastal  communities   -  trying  to  keep  Alaskans                                                               
fishing.    Most  board members  are  commercial  fishermen,  she                                                               
added.   The  AMCC  supports  CSHJR 15(FSH)  and  would like  one                                                               
change.  On  page 2, line 28,  she said, it would  be stronger to                                                               
remove  "in the  waters  off Alaska,"  because  farmed fish  from                                                               
other areas can have a negative impact on Alaska fisheries.                                                                     
2:29:49 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. TERREL said a company  has requested permission from the Food                                                               
and  Drug Administration  to supply  fish farms  with genetically                                                               
modified fish.  A genetically  modified fish would be an invasive                                                               
species, she said.                                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  said if global  warming is real  and raises                                                               
water temperatures, and  salmon want cold water,  "and they start                                                               
to get  away from us and  start moving further and  further north                                                               
... and we  start losing the volumes  of fish we have  now" and a                                                               
company says it  can make the salmon tolerant to  warmer water by                                                               
genetic modification,  "and you  could lose your  whole industry,                                                               
or you could do this, would you do it?" he asked.                                                                               
MS.  TERREL   said  genetic  modification  modifies   the  fish's                                                               
hormones, "I don't  know that you are  modifying their resistance                                                               
to disease  or other  things," she  said.   The water  is getting                                                               
warmer, and salmon are still here,  she added.  Alaska has world-                                                               
class  fishery management  and she  doesn't think  Representative                                                               
Gatto's scenario would happen.                                                                                                  
2:32:23 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KAPSNER  said  salmon   are  sensitive  to  water                                                               
temperatures, but the way they  navigate to their spawning stream                                                               
is with the magnetic pole and through their sense of smell.                                                                     
2:33:14 PM                                                                                                                    
JERRY  MCCUNE, United  Fishermen  of Alaska,  said "[someone  is]                                                               
putting in for a permit for  genetic modified that's shot up with                                                               
hormones  so it  makes  a king  salmon huge  but  its head  stays                                                               
[really] teeny so the brain doesn't  catch up with the body."  He                                                               
said  the  reason  the  hatcheries   started  was  to  complement                                                               
Alaska's  wild  stocks.   It  has  nothing  to do  with  "genetic                                                               
modified,"  which has  been  banned  in some  states  and in  the                                                               
European  Union.   It  has  nothing  to  do with  replacing  wild                                                               
stocks, he said.  Hatcheries raise  their fish to a certain size,                                                               
and if  they held them  too long, the  timing would be  wrong, he                                                               
added.   Holding them for  too long introduces disease  and other                                                               
problems.   "They have  to go  out at a  certain time  so they'll                                                               
come back at a certain time," he said.                                                                                          
2:35:17 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO  questioned  Ms.  Terrel's  statement  that                                                               
modifying genes only results in a hormonal change.                                                                              
MR. MCCUNE  said, yes, "to  make a  fish grow [really]  fast," so                                                               
growing a king salmon takes one  year instead of the natural five                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE   GATTO   said   it  is   curious   that   genetic                                                               
modification only affects hormones.   "You can genetically modify                                                               
corn and everything  else, and make it grow bigger,  and it's not                                                               
hormones, it's something else," he said.                                                                                        
MR. MCCUNE  said, "You  change the genetics.   Fish  have certain                                                               
genetics, and  they go back  to certain streams because  ... they                                                               
have these two bones in there  that [have] a polar pull that goes                                                               
back to  certain water.  If  you have genetic modified  fish, all                                                               
you do is  grow a fish fast, you're not  going to replace genetic                                                               
modified  fish to  help our  wild  stocks, because  you would  be                                                               
changing the whole gene pool of  the wild stocks.  Each stock has                                                               
a unique gene pool," he said.                                                                                                   
2:37:26 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON moved to adopt Amendment 1, as follows:                                                                   
     Page 3, line 9, after "by"                                                                                                 
     Delete "law"                                                                                                               
     Insert "the National Environmental Policy Act"                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON said he wants  to make sure that open ocean                                                               
aquaculture  is in  conformance with  the National  Environmental                                                               
Policy Act of 1969.                                                                                                             
There being no objection, Amendment 1 carried.                                                                                  
2:39:59 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR SAMUELS  asked Mr.  Fisk about  removing the  words "off                                                               
Alaska" from the resolution.                                                                                                    
MR.  FISK said  he would  not mind  banning aquaculture  from all                                                               
federal waters.  "It is up to the committee," he said.                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD said he thinks it's a "dandy amendment."                                                                
CO-CHAIR SAMUELS asked if Amendment 2 reads as follows:                                                                         
     Page 2, line 28, after "shellfish"                                                                                         
     Delete "in the waters off Alaska"                                                                                          
Amendment  2  was  considered  as   moved,  and  there  being  no                                                               
objection, Amendment 2 carried.                                                                                                 
CO-CHAIR  RAMRAS  moved  to  report  CSHJR  15(FSH)  version  24-                                                               
LS0631\Y as amended with individual  recommendations.  Hearing no                                                               
objection, CSHJR 15(RES) was reported  out of the House Resources                                                               
Standing Committee.                                                                                                             

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