Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/25/1995 01:00 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SRES - 2/25/95 SB 49 RESTRUCTURE BOARD OF FISHERIES Number 001 CHAIRMAN LEMAN , in the Anchorage Legislative Information Office, called the Senate Resources Subcommittee meeting to order at 1:00 p.m. and introduced SB 49 as the only order of business before the subcommittee. GERON BRUCE, Legislative Liaison for the Department of Fish and Game, stated that the Board of Fisheries provides a cost effective manner in which to utilize local knowledge and industry expertise in the regulatory process. Duplicating such knowledge and expertise with a staff effort would prove difficult. Another difficulty would be the social and economic issues the Board of Fisheries currently faces; a professional board would face such issues as well. He felt that most would agree that the system of resource management in Alaska has done a good job with conservation. The problem seems to be the social and economic issues regarding resources. In conclusion, Mr. Bruce said that the Administration supports the citizen lay board while recognizing the need for possible improvements. SENATOR LEMAN suggested that Mr. Bruce forward any recommendations regarding possible venues for improvement in the process. He commented that the approach in HB 141 would probably achieve consensus. GERON BRUCE said that he would forward any suggestions. Mr. Bruce noted that the Administration supports HB 141 and would be working on some changes to that legislation. SENATOR HOFFMAN inquired as to Mr. Bruce's comments regarding the suggestion of adding two members to the Board in order to improve its composition. GERON BRUCE recognized that adding two members could offer a broader representation of Alaska. The idea is worthy of review and consideration. SENATOR HOFFMAN mentioned the concept of creating three regional fish boards in order to alleviate the current board's inability to address issues every year. The Board can only speak to issues every three years while the board's members serve from two to three years. GERON BRUCE noted that this idea has been before the legislature in the past. The main disadvantages to such a proposal would be the cost and the inability of the three boards to address issues that span the jurisdiction of all three. Mr. Bruce presented another possibility; a Board historian could compile a record of the issues before the Board of Fisheries and the manner in which they have been handled up to date. SENATOR LEMAN reiterated that Mr. Bruce should offer any suggestions regarding improvements to the Board of Fisheries. He indicated that he intended to use SB 49 as a vehicle, modifying to include those portions that will achieve consensus. GERON BRUCE appreciated the introduction of SB 49 because it provides a forum to discuss these issues. JERRY McCUNE, United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA), stated that all 22 member groups of UFA oppose SB 49. He explained that the UFA would like to continue the current Board of Fisheries comprised of lay citizens. Currently, the Board of Fisheries is comprised of seven governor-appointed members who are subject to confirmation by the Alaska legislature. He noted that many states envy this structure. Mr. McCune recognized that the system could use some improvements. He suggested following the change in dates and terms of board members as specified in HB 141. He also suggested returning the local advisory groups to the process in which the board addresses issues. There is controversy regarding the board's conflict of interest. He proposed discussing the conflict of interest issue and reviewing the possibility of amending the ethics act. He emphasized that if the committee would be willing to finance a professional board, then there should be money available for more staff and research. In conclusion, Mr. McCune pointed out that the increased usage along with the increased population has increased allocation conflicts. The best system would benefit all users of this resource. SENATOR LEMAN inquired as to Mr. McCune's knowledge regarding other states' with professional board of fisheries. JERRY McCUNE said that he would forward that information to him. Mr. McCune thanked Senator Pearce for offering this legislation. UFA offered its assistance in working on the system. SENATOR LEMAN informed everyone that he understood that Senator Pearce realized this legislation would probably not pass as is, but that it could be used as a vehicle to address necessary Board issues. MIKE WELLS, commercial fisherman and member of the Valdez Advisory Board, opposed SB 49. He emphasized that SB 49 discriminates against commercial fishermen, processors and marketers of Alaska's fishery resources by not allowing their input on the Board. Their input would be denied by SB 49, but their access and usage of this resource would be affected by the board's decisions. He explained that a professional board is a contradiction in terms; how can a board member be a professional if the legislation mandates that the member have no knowledge of the issues before the board. The Board should not be changed. SENATOR LEMAN noted that SB 50 proposes a similar structure to the Board of Game. DON DANIELS, commercial fisherman, opposed SB 49. He stated that the reasons for opposition had been identified well. SENATOR LEMAN thanked all those who testified and those who had listened. He said that when Senator Pearce returned the subcommittee would discuss SB 49 further. He reminded everyone that written testimony was welcomed.