Legislature(1995 - 1996)

02/20/1995 03:38 PM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 SRES - 2/21/95                                                                
             SB  49 RESTRUCTURE BOARD OF FISHERIES                            
  SENATOR LEMAN announced SB 49 to be up for consideration.                   
 KEN ERICKSON, Legislative Aide for Senator Pearce, briefed the                
 Committee on the provisions of the bill.  He said historically the            
 Legislature and the Governor have struggled over confirmations of             
 Board members.  Different geographic districts and economic                   
 interests have always felt they were slighted and not                         
 proportionately represented.  This legislation would go a long way            
 to decrease these problems as well as save money.                             
 SENATOR HOFFMAN asked under the definition of "no vested economic             
 interest in the fishery" does that include a subsistence fisherman?           
 MR. ERICKSON replied that hadn't been addressed, yet.  There is a             
 similar question regarding sports fishermen.                                  
 MICHAEL MARTIN said he was testifying to try to refocus the                   
 Legislature and the Governor in a direction that needs to be taken            
 to resolve the issues facing the state.  He said he is a third                
 generation Alaska who has participated in the fisheries for the               
 past 27 years and participated in the regulatory process as a Board           
 of Fisheries member and Chairman and Joint Boards Chairman.                   
 It is clear that sports fishing, tourism, and commercial fishing              
 are crucial to the present and future of Alaska's economic                    
 diversification, he stated.  Subsistence is also important to this            
 MR. MARTIN said this issue needs good planning by the management of           
 our renewable resources.  There are two main issues that have not             
 been solved to the public's satisfaction - the False Pass                     
 interception of chums and the Cook Inlet sports fish/commercial               
 fish allocations.  These two issues have polarized the appointments           
 to the Board. The polarization has also affected how the public               
 perceives the Board process.  The process is in jeopardy if these             
 two issues are not resolved.                                                  
 People who are opposed to the Board process have deep concerns over           
 the way the Board has allocated in the past, being dominated by               
 commercial fishermen.  When the Board was dominated by commercial             
 fishermen, 90% of the allocation issues were between commercial               
 fishermen.  Commercial and sports fishermen have some common                  
 philosophical traits - you are either a terminal commercial                   
 fisherman, a terminal sportsman, or a mixed stock commercial                  
 fisherman or a mixed stock sports fisherman, or a mixture of both.            
 The Board, dealing with commercial vs. commercial fisheries                   
 allocation, would use historical catches as a base for allocation.            
 But taking historical catches of commercial harvest and compare it            
 to historical sport fish harvest, sport fisheries would normally              
 not have significant allocation.  Without long term planning, he              
 cautioned, the state would tear itself apart trying to deal with              
 sports fisheries growth in a reactionary forum.  He also believed             
 that additional tools are needed when addressing allocation between           
 sports and commercial fisheries.  There is still a lack of                    
 information especially in the False Pass area.  However, Board                
 members have the responsibility to totally understand the issues at           
 hand before voting on what will affect fellow Alaskans.                       
 He proposed that the Governor appoint qualified people from diverse           
 regions who will accept the position without an agenda.  Along with           
 that, the legislature would confirm appointees with the same                  
 considerations.  The Board should go back to a two year cycle and             
 there should be a change in the ethics law as it applies to the               
 Board of Fisheries and the Board of Game.  The most important                 
 change would be that the Governor puts together a working group of            
 past chairmen and vice chairmen.  The group would be asked to come            
 up with creative alternative solutions for current difficult issues           
 that face the state.                                                          
 Number 283                                                                    
 SENATOR LEMAN said that with two recent appointees, at least 30               
 members of the Legislature had opposed confirmation mainly because            
 of a vote that had just been taken on a difficult issue.  Another             
 proposal is that the person not be seated until after confirmation.           
 MR. MARTIN replied that if you're a Board member who hasn't been              
 confirmed and you are in a cycle in which a False Pass or Cook                
 Inlet issue will come forth, you are guaranteed to have a difficult           
 time with your confirmation.  Those two issues are the main                   
 problems, he reiterated.  He still felt it was the responsibility             
 of the Board members "to vote the way they felt" on those issues              
 with the information that is provided to them.  Not having them               
 vote before confirmation would rectify that problem.                          
 SENATOR LEMAN announced he was putting SB 49 into a subcommittee              
 with himself as chairman with Senator Pearce and Senator Hoffman.             
 Number 249                                                                    
 DON JOHNSON, Soldotna fisherman, supported the bill in general, but           
 he thought changing the number of Board members from seven to three           
 was unrealistic and having the chairman picked by the Governor was            
 a bad idea.  The people working on the Board should be able to                
 determine who they work with best.  However, he thought it possible           
 to have lay people without fishing interests as Board members and             
 thought it was a good idea because then they would be totally                 
 unbiased.  He feels very uncomfortable with people who have a                 
 prejudice against him up front.                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN asked him if he was a guide on the Kenai River?  MR.            
 JOHNSON answered that he was.                                                 

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