Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205

03/23/2005 08:30 AM JUDICIARY

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved SB 126 Out of Committee
Moved CSSB 129(JUD) Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSSB 70(JUD) Out of Committee
                     SB 126-AQUATIC FARMING                                                                                 
10:08:23 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR SEEKINS announced SB 126 to be up for consideration.                                                                      
MR.  TIM BARRY,  staff  to Senator  Stedman,  introduced SB  126.                                                               
Senator  Stedman sponsored  SB 126  as  a result  of a  coalition                                                               
between  the Alaska  Department  of Fish  and  Game (ADF&G),  the                                                               
Southeast  Alaska Regional  Dive  Fisheries Association  (SARDFA)                                                               
and the Alaska Shellfish Growers  Association (ASGA). SB 126 is a                                                               
result  of a  compromise agreement  between the  groups who  have                                                               
been working together  for years to resolve  legal and management                                                               
issues. SB 126 amends the  Aquatic Farming Act (AS 16.40.100-199)                                                               
to allow aquatic farms to  continue to operate in compliance with                                                               
a recent Supreme Court decision.                                                                                                
10:10:10 AM                                                                                                                   
Section  1 amends  the  Aquatic Farming  Act  to allow  shellfish                                                               
farmers  to own,  harvest and  sell insignificant  populations of                                                               
wild  shellfish stocks  on  their aquatic  farm  sites. ADF&G  is                                                               
conducting a  commercial dive  fishery on  designated mariculture                                                               
sites  to  remove  commercially significant  population  of  wild                                                               
10:11:24 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  HUGGINS  asked Mr.  Barry  if  there are  a  significant                                                               
number of geoducks in Alaska.                                                                                                   
MR. BARRY  answered there is  a thriving commercial  dive fishery                                                               
in Southeast  Alaska. The  farms are  on a  specific spot  on the                                                               
bottom of the  ocean. The farming act gives farmers  the right to                                                               
grown  and harvest  shellfish on  a specific  spot of  underwater                                                               
10:13:38 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  SEEKINS commented  wild  free  roaming animals,  including                                                               
shellfish, belong to all the  people of Alaska. Under established                                                               
law, title  normally transfers  at the point  of harvest.  SB 126                                                               
transfers ownership once people  are granted agricultural rights.                                                               
He asked Mr. Barry if that was an accurate summary.                                                                             
MR. BARRY agreed.                                                                                                               
10:14:56 AM                                                                                                                   
MR. DAVID  BEDFORD, deputy commissioner, ADF&G,  also agreed with                                                               
Chair Seekins' comments.                                                                                                        
SENATOR THERRIAULT said SB 126 cleans  up a past problem that has                                                               
been pestering the state for seven years.                                                                                       
10:16:21 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  SEEKINS  commented only  the  Legislature  can transfer  a                                                               
title prior to harvest.                                                                                                         
SENATOR   THERRIAULT  advised   there   have   been  audits   and                                                               
litigation.  SB  126  will  clear up  any  confusion  of  farming                                                               
SENATOR FRENCH  asked if  the farms or  plots are  visibly marked                                                               
for the general public.                                                                                                         
10:17:26 AM                                                                                                                   
MR.  ROGER  PAINTER,  vice president,  Alaska  Shellfish  Growers                                                               
Association  (ASGA),  answered  Senator  French's  question.  The                                                               
sites are  required to  be marked with  visible buoys.  The buoys                                                               
have the permit-holders name and permit identification.                                                                         
SENATOR FRENCH inquired on the size of a typical farm.                                                                          
MR.PAINTER responded approximately 3-4 acres.                                                                                   
SENATOR THERRIAULT  asked Mr. Painter  where the farms  reside in                                                               
relation to the shoreline.                                                                                                      
MR.PAINTER  disclosed  they  were  generally  located  with  some                                                               
protection from  the weather, which  could mean along a  shore or                                                               
in a cove.                                                                                                                      
10:18:39 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR THERRIAULT asked if farms have onsite caretakers.                                                                       
MR.PAINTER responded  the farms are  in the starting  phase. They                                                               
will not have caretakers on-site at all times.                                                                                  
SENATOR FRENCH asked whether the  plots would cover a shore where                                                               
the public might suddenly be restricted from clam digging.                                                                      
MR.PAINTER intimated  there are  inter-tidal geoduck  farms under                                                               
development.  Leases  that farmers  get  from  the state  require                                                               
public  access  that would  allow  the  public to  harvest  other                                                               
resources or to  recreate so long as they are  not disturbing the                                                               
geoduck crop or the farm equipment.                                                                                             
10:21:19 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR FRENCH  expressed concern about public  notification of a                                                               
farm on  the beach.  He asked  Mr. Painter  whether there  is any                                                               
opposition to SB 126.                                                                                                           
MR.PAINTER claimed there was no  negative testimony so far. ASGA,                                                               
the United Fisherman of Alaska, and SARDFA support SB 126.                                                                      
SENATOR THERRIAULT asked Mr. Painter  who the two parties were in                                                               
the lawsuit.                                                                                                                    
MR.PAINTER answered the  Department of Fish and Game  and four or                                                               
five farmers.                                                                                                                   
10:22:59 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR HUGGINS inquired  as to the region in  which geoducks are                                                               
MR.PAINTER answered primarily Southeast Alaska.                                                                                 
10:23:23 AM                                                                                                                   
MR.  LANCE  NELSON,  assistant  attorney  general,  testified  in                                                               
support of SB  126. The division of natural  resources section of                                                               
the  AGs  office  in  Anchorage believes  SB  126  establishes  a                                                               
framework for a  fair permitting system. SB 126 is  an attempt to                                                               
address  the issues  raised in  both the  Superior Court  and the                                                               
Alaska Supreme Court decisions in  the Alaska Trademark Shellfish                                                               
10:25:39 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR SEEKINS asked Mr. Nelson  if he believes the Legislature is                                                               
operating in the best of public  interest if they were to pass SB
MR. NELSON said it was a good approach to solving the issues.                                                                   
SENATOR  THERRIAULT asked  what would  happen in  a case  where a                                                               
permit is  issued to a location  where it is later  determined to                                                               
be a significant population of wild stock.                                                                                      
MR.  BEDFORD  advised ADF&G  has  rescinded  sections of  permits                                                               
before.  The ADF&G  has also  denied permits  due to  significant                                                               
populations of wild  shellfish stocks. ADF&G has  not yet adopted                                                               
regulations  that clearly  define what  a significant  population                                                               
is. Should  SB 126  pass, ADF&G will  put into  place regulations                                                               
that give clear  definition so that the industry  will know their                                                               
limitations and  so the department  will have standards  by which                                                               
to judge applications.                                                                                                          
SENATOR  THERRIAULT asked  Mr. Bedford  if they  are prepared  to                                                               
write the regulations.                                                                                                          
MR. BEDFORD  advised a group including  representatives from both                                                               
sides of  the industry have  been working on the  regulations for                                                               
some  time. The  approach  is to  place a  maximum  limit on  the                                                               
amount  of pounds  of wild  stock geoducks  on a  farm site.  The                                                               
group  will  also  take  into  account  the  density  of  geoduck                                                               
population  and   the  location   of  other   geoduck  commercial                                                               
CHAIR SEEKINS asked  Mr. Bedford if the intent is  to get farmers                                                               
to farm on non-productive land.                                                                                                 
10:29:28 AM                                                                                                                   
MR.  BEDFORD responded  not exactly.  The court  clearly informed                                                               
ADF&G to  focus on farming  areas that had some  geoduck presence                                                               
but not significant amounts.                                                                                                    
10:29:53 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR SEEKINS  commented the  Legislature has  yet to  give ADF&G                                                               
the authority to do that.                                                                                                       
MR. BEDFORD mentioned  the court said ADF&G is  the expert agency                                                               
that  would be  best  suited to  define significant  populations.                                                               
Presently ADF&G has no ability to transfer titles to farmers.                                                                   
10:30:21 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  HUGGINS asked  whether a  recreational diver  would have                                                               
access to a commercial fishery area of geoducks.                                                                                
MR.PAINTER responded  commercial fishing areas are  open to sport                                                               
SENATOR HUGGINS  asked Mr.  Painter whether  commercial fishermen                                                               
and recreational  divers would come  to a dispute over  a fishing                                                               
MR.PAINTER answered  he could not  envision that  situation. Most                                                               
recreationally  harvested   geoducks  are  taken   by  commercial                                                               
10:32:20 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR THERRIAULT pointed  to Section 5 of SB 126  and asked Mr.                                                               
Bedford   why  ADF&G   would  want   to   keep  fishery   records                                                               
MR. BEDFORD explained for reasons  of private business practices.                                                               
ADF&G  will produce  an  annual report  for  the public.  Private                                                               
enterprises  should  have   confidentiality  for  their  business                                                               
SENATOR  THERRIAULT asked  Mr. Bedford  how long  it takes  for a                                                               
geoduck to reach harvestable size.                                                                                              
MR.  BEDFORD  answered  5-7  years. The  industry  has  not  been                                                               
growing long enough to establish an exact number.                                                                               
10:34:12 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR FRENCH  pointed out a  technicality in Section 6  on line                                                               
24. The word mean should be means.                                                                                              
CHAIR SEEKINS  clarified ADF&G  would protect  individual aquatic                                                               
farm sites records but not the accumulative area record.                                                                        
MR. BEDFORD agreed.                                                                                                             
CHAIR SEEKINS suggested the language in Section 5 is unclear.                                                                   
MR. BEDFORD  responded the drafters  should be  queried regarding                                                               
Section 5. He  believes the language is parallel  to the language                                                               
they have for confidentiality of other records.                                                                                 
MR.  NELSON detailed  Section  5; Paragraph  (4)  refers to  wild                                                               
stocks.  It would  not apply  to accumulative  harvest of  farmed                                                               
stocks.  Section  5  would   not  make  confidential  accumulated                                                               
reports prepared from individual submissions by ADF&G.                                                                          
10:37:51 AM                                                                                                                   
MS.  JULIE DECKER,  member, SARDFA,  testified in  support of  SB
MR. PAUL FUHS, lobbyist, testified in support of SB 126.                                                                        
10:39:20 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR THERRIAULT  moved SB 126  from committee  with individual                                                               
recommendations  and  attached  fiscal note(s).  There  being  no                                                               
objection, the motion carried.                                                                                                  

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