Legislature(1997 - 1998)
04/01/1998 04:00 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 40 - DISCRETE SALMON STOCK MGMT AND ASSESSMENT CHAIRMAN HALFORD called the Senate Resources Committee meeting to order at 4:00 P.M. and announced SB 40 to be up for consideration. MR. BRETT HUBER, Aide to Senator Halford, sponsor, said he would address work draft number 0-LS0296\Q by Utermohle and that it is very different from the original bill. The management mandates are gone and instead there is language for discrete stock assessment. The language at the end of Section (a) is budget hold harmless language suggested by the Department. Section (b) covers sport fishing license surcharges (about $450,000 annually). Section Two is the operative section of the bill which he reviewed for the Committee. SENATOR SHARP moved to adopt the CS to SB 40. There were no objections and it was so ordered. SENATOR TORGERSON asked how they knew if the list would change. MR. HUBER answered that he had talked to both the Department and the Board and they both felt comfortable that the Board was the entity to decide what stocks needed more information, since they made the allocation decisions. The Advisory Boards would be invited to make comments on the lists as they do for the individual proposals. SENATOR TORGERSON said he would like see some kind of local veto power. MR. HUBER said he thought there was a check and balance in this system, because as the list is developed and the projects are prioritized, it's included as a BRU in the Governor's budget and comes before the legislature. Number 131 MR. CARL ROSIER said he was representing himself, although the president of the Alaska Outdoor Council (AOC) said he could speak for him, too. The AOC membership endorsed the CS to SB 40 at their recent annual meeting. He said he had been involved in the management of Alaska's fish and wildlife since 1955 and it's his view that State management has been a success story and he commended the legislature on giving the agency the authority and tools necessary to make the tough decisions in maintaining and rebuilding the salmon resources of our State. CSSB 40 is a good bill, he said, because it addresses the gathering of key information necessary for sustained yield management of the State's salmon stocks and further the efforts of previous legislators. He did not think the recreational community would have any problems supporting the proposed fees. He said CSSB 40 is good for the resource, good for the users through improved Board of Fisheries decisions, and establishes a fair funding mechanism shared by all users. It insures funding of a key management information gathering program in the face of declining agency budgets and establishes public and Board involvement in selection of projects and assignments of priorities. Number 228 SENATOR LEMAN said that last week he met with counterparts in the British Columbia government and had an opportunity to be briefed by some of their technical experts involved in fisheries management. One of the things they talked about was the difference in the focus of management, theirs being more of a "weak stock" management which, he thought, is one of the reasons we're more successful. He said it almost seems like we, as an unintended consequence, are moving toward the Canadian position, and inadvertently are undermining our own position in the Pacific Salmon Treaty. MR. ROSIER responded that to begin with, he is talking about two different systems; one is federally run and the other is state. He is a strong believer in the state run system. In Canada, the relationship the government had with the fleets is pretty much the same as our federal government had with our fleets prior to statehood. He didn't think we could ever get rid of mixed stock fisheries. The key to it, though, is the ability of the managers to have the information that permits them to deal with that situation. SENATOR LEMAN said two of the tenets of the Pacific Salmon Treaty are the recognition of historical harvests and equity. He agreed that there are areas of the State where interceptions occur, but yet communities are established around interceptions and they are probably valid fisheries. He is not opposed to information that would help us manage, but he did not want to undermine the basic principals we are arguing for in an international dispute. MR. ROSIER said he was associated with U.S./Canada for many years prior to the treaty going into effect and the Canadians have not been all that truthful in approaching this particular problem. They have significant multistock fisheries off of the B.C. coast and have created new fisheries in the Dixon Entrance area. When they say they are managing on the basis of weak stock, he would take that somewhat lightly. Fisheries in this State are very dynamic, although he realized that people who participate in the fisheries don't like to hear that, because most people look for some stability in their life. The gear, the capability, and the knowledge are all different and affect the way you manage. He reiterated that the key to making those kinds of decisions is having the information flow that comes in about stocks. CHAIRMAN HALFORD asked what is our obligation to a specific weaker stock that is in a mixed stock fishery. MR. ROSIER answered that the practicality of the situation won't permit you to get down to the weakest stock. They don't have the information and the very nature of the fisheries preclude you getting to that point. Following statehood, one of our major problems was that the major fisheries were being supported by a few major stocks in a few major rivers in most of the areas of the State. In many cases, the fish were gone and the areas were closed until little by little the stock was brought back. There is a practical limit to how far you can go for the weakest stocks and in many instances they have to fend for themselves the best they can until we get the information. We're a long ways from that in his estimation. CHAIRMAN HALFORD asked if we were vulnerable under a constitutional challenge of sustained yield or does that apply cumulatively and not to a specific stock. MR. ROSIER said there is a practical limit and he thought a judge would take that into consideration. SENATOR LEMAN said in the Columbia and Snake River systems, the stocks are tremendously depleted for far different reasons than Alaskans harvesting them. It has more to do with the dams on the rivers and other things we have little impact on. Yet, Alaska fishermen are impacted by it. A reduction of tens of thousands of kings may result in the return of single digits of fish to the spawning grounds. That's just not right, but he understands the need to protect the stock. The evolutionarily significant unit (ESU) can be interpreted to mean almost any unique subbreed that may spawn in any side stream and taken to its limits could really impact fisheries management all over the Pacific. He didn't know where this bill would lead us in that respect. MR. ROSIER said the bill is balanced in another area because it brings in a public Board process which was protection against that sort of thing, because they decide ultimately what fisheries policy is going to be. Number 433 SENATOR TORGERSON said he has nicknamed this bill the endangered species act for the exact reason Senator Leman is talking about. He said they were seeing it on the Kenai with the brown bears and in Southeast with the wolves. Once we spend a lot of money to identify where there is a weak stock or a species, what's to stop someone from suing and blocking everything until that one tributary gets whatever escapement is determined it needs. He thought this would be above the Board process. MR. ROSIER said we didn't want to get the federal government tangled up in our salmon management operations on this. We've seen what's transpired in the rest of the Pacific Northwest where we didn't take care of the stocks and under those circumstances the federal government, one by one, is listing them under the Endangered Species Act. The compromises were made down there and he said, "Let's don't make those same kind of decisions. Let's find out about the stocks as we go along and fight about the allocations internally." SENATOR TORGERSON agreed with that and said let's assume that allocation is a different issue. He still didn't know how you could stop someone from getting public information that millions of dollars was spent on gathering regarding a weak stock. MR. ROSIER said right now within suburban Alaska there is the same set of circumstances. CHAIRMAN HALFORD commented, if we are endangering a species or stock, the case that goes before an Alaskan judge on sustained yield is still a case. Because we don't ask the questions, because we don't want to know, instead of fix the problem, we haven't made it go away at all. He asked if the greatest constitutional defense against a sustained yield challenge is ignorance. MR. ROSIER said in the cases of the wolf and goshawk, the only information that kept those from being listed was that information that the State collected. Number 498 MS. CATHY HANSEN, United Southeast Gillnetters Association, opposed SB 40. It doesn't define discrete stock which leaves a large interpretation to this bill. She said the majority of everything they want to accomplish under this bill could be done within ADF&G if it was adequately funded in a regular budget process. If there's an area that needs more information and the Board of Fisheries knows they need the information, they can tell the Department who can determine the project and submit it to the Governor. It can then go to the Legislature for funding. Doing funding for projects in this manner is setting themselves up for the list to be different every year and they won't get enough information gathered on particular projects to be of any help. To get information on a salmon stream, they might have to work over a 4 - 16 year time period. She asked if it would really help the State to spend all this money and not see any one project all the way through. CHAIRMAN HALFORD asked why she thought it would be different lists, if it's the same Board of Fisheries and the same ADF&G that's proposing a list to the Legislature now. MS. HANSEN answered that the best example she could give him was the capital project list. The Board of Fisheries is not the same people every year; it changes as the dynamics change. Cook Inlet over the last number of years has been the big issue. It might not be a couple of years down the road. She just didn't think the list would be maintained the same through the Board of Fisheries, the Legislature, and the Governor's Office. It would be more political. She also pointed out that they are asking salmon permit holders to pay for this, yet there's a possibility that she could pay into this program for 25 years, and within the Southeast region not one project would make it on the list. It's not that they don't have areas that need projects done; it just doesn't get onto the list. CHAIRMAN HALFORD commented that's just like Bristol Bay paying for marketing of Southeast fish. MS. HANSEN agreed. CHAIRMAN HALFORD said he thought the list would be as good or as bad as it currently is, because that's exactly how you choose the projects that you fund on an ongoing basis for research now. The bill probably has a little more Board process. SENATOR LEMAN asked about a definition for discrete stock. CHAIRMAN HALFORD responded that both the Department and the Board wanted it left open because discrete is a matter of degree. Number 562 MR. GERON BRUCE, ADF&G, said the Department had already testified last year on SB 40. He could repeat their earlier testimony and describe some of the work the Department is currently doing with the Board to advance conservation issues that this bill touches on. There are a number of other questions they have with the bill. CHAIRMAN HALFORD asked him to go through everything and the concern that the process would be less consistent than it is now. MR. BRUCE said the things they like about the bill very much are that it focuses on escapement and stock identification, both of which are key elements of sound fisheries management. These are also areas where budget cutbacks have affected those programs, because the Department has tried to protect its in-season management program as the core of its program, and, in some cases, they have not been able to maintain the kind of stock identification and escapement projects they had with a larger general fund base. They also like the process for involving the Board and the public, because it brings the parties together, lay out a procedure and criteria they can look at. TAPE 98-24, SIDE B The Board, working with the public in consultation with the Department, sets the broad parameters of the stocks for which information is needed, but it is left to the scientists of the Department to actually design, develop, and finally prioritize specific projects that respond to those information needs. Some of the benefits will be to provide more information about individual stocks clearly. It responds to the Board's and the public's concern for more information and creates a stable source of funding. It furthers the public's understanding of complexity in the cost of fisheries research, and hopefully would increase public support of funding for fisheries research. There are a couple of questions remaining about the bill. One is whether or not the additional revenue is general fund program receipts or whether it is statutorily designated program receipts (a non-G/F funding source). The issue is that in an era of static or declining general fund appropriations for commercial fisheries, new revenues that are G/F in nature flowing into the Division for these research projects could bump out other projects that are of equal or greater importance. The Department needed to have this a designated program receipts last year and his understanding is that the current version is not. He asked them to consider that issue. Another issue that has come up since last time is that some people have expressed concern that legislation requiring the Governor to include certain types of projects in his request to the Legislature may raise separation of power issues, although he hadn't talked to the Department of Law about it. CHAIRMAN HALFORD commented that everywhere else in law, it's freely ignored. To close, MR. BRUCE said, a couple of projects that have happened over the interim are where the Department and the Board have been working on conservation of the salmon stocks. One is the sustainable fisheries project where the Board of Fisheries and the Department are working together to define and codify the principals recognized throughout the world of successful salmon management and to develop a check list that the State of Alaska, the Board, and the Department could apply to the management programs of our commercial and recreational fisheries to see if they are fulfilling the mandate of these principals. Dr. Phil Mundy was retained by the Board and Department as a consultant to assist in this project and he's very familiar with these issues. There has been a lot of work and public input on this project. There is a draft of those principals which is in the process of being reviewed and will be released as a public review document. Both Director Clasby and Director Delaney serve as members on the committee that is overseeing that project. The other item regards some actual research that's being done on Cook Inlet stocks in the Susitna River Drainage. This was funded as a capital project that was amended into the CIP last year from the interest that had accrued from the Exxon Valdez fund. They have begun a project that looks at the escapement, their ability to enumerate, and be confident of the reliability of escapements for cohos and sockeye salmon in the Susitna River Drainage. He had a three-page summary status of that project and another document, a resolution from the Board of Fisheries, concerning Upper Cook Inlet Salmon Research projects. It's basically the Board expressing its appreciation for the funding and conveying the Legislature and others the value they see in this kind of funding. SENATOR SHARP asked if the individual the Department hired was a consultant affiliated with the National Academy of Science. MR. BRUCE answered that he didn't believe so. CHAIRMAN HALFORD wanted to talk about the Yetna River as a minor drainage. He asked out of the last decade, are there any years it didn't make escapement on all species. MR. BOB CLASBY, Director, Division of Commercial Fisheries, answered for all the species of salmon there are some for which they are not sure, because they aren't measured. The ones of critical interest right now are chinook, sockeye, and coho. The sockeye has caused some heated conversations over the last couple of years and there are some years that escapement was not met. CHAIRMAN HALFORD said he thought it was three out of five years. MR. CLASBY said sustained yield was mentioned in the Constitution in a manner so that it could be interpreted in contemporary years. It didn't fix into concrete what the morals and values were in 1957 and 58 when it was drafted. When they spoke about sustained yield in the record, they talked about the inability to measure sustained yield and also what kind of units it ought to be in. Since the State has taken over management, particularly for salmon, unless someone has set another objective, they have tried to maximize the yield for salmon in terms of numbers of fish, not pounds or dollars of fish. With that said, the escapement goals for Yetna are a maximum sustained yield goal. When they miss the goals, it means they aren't sustaining the yield of MSY, but nonetheless, there is a harvest that can come off of those. They do close particularly directed fisheries because that is the yield they are trying produce. It doesn't put them in the situation where they are concerned about things that are spoken to in the Endangered Species Act. We're not going to lose those stocks. CHAIRMAN HALFORD said he agreed that maximum sustained yield and constitutional sustained yield are not necessarily the same thing, but when you have a major drainage that doesn't meet the only goal that's out there year after year, and is part of a major mixed stock, that brings the question to the forefront as to why. The Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association's Letter, January 97, talked about Chelatna Lake and that an ADF&G estimate says they can support a return of 389,000 adult sockeye and in 1988 they got 217 fish. At some point, you get below escapement necessary for sustained yield at all. Then he thought they were subject to intervention from the court system which is where he didn't want to get. MR. CLASBY said they aren't saying they don't want to know the data and he wasn't familiar with where some of those numbers came from. The study on the capacity of the Lake had to do with production, if you enhance the facility, not just natural production. They can all agree that obviously they all want some yield off those stocks. He can only remember one court case, the Elim court case that was brought where they challenged that the Board hadn't met its sustained yield mandate. CHAIRMAN HALFORD said he would like to see what both sides are arguing, not that it applies to this legislation, but at least it may be the format. SENATOR LEMAN asked if he wanted to add anything. MR. CLASBY said he agreed in general with everything Mr. Rosier said. He said they don't have weak stock management, but they are concerned with stocks that aren't' producing as they should. That's why they have escapement goals. He thought people were concerned about the effect of fisheries on the small stocks and whether the management system is predicated on a system that has very small normal production at the expense of some high production. Those are decisions that the Legislature, the Board of Fisheries, and the Department has to make from time to time. SENATOR LEMAN said he knows they are concerned about weak stocks because of the August 4 shutdown last year in Cook Inlet. He asked what the end result of that was. MR. CLASBY answered that throughout Cook Inlet they saw fairly traumatic production failure of coho salmon, some of which was anticipated in the Kenai River. Some of it was more severe than expected in the remainder of the Susitna Northern Cook Inlet. They took draconian action across all fisheries and the end result of that was in most systems they saw average levels of escapement in the streams they were able to assess. To that end, they believe those were appropriate and effective actions. CHAIRMAN HALFORD said he used the term average levels of escapement which wasn't the same as escapement goals which concerned him. MR. CLASBY explained that he meant exactly what he said. In the case of coho salmon across Cook Inlet, their assessment capability is not as strong as it is with other species and their program is in an earlier stage of evolution and many of their data bases for chinook and sockeye salmon extend back in excess of 20 years. They have very few systems where that is the case with coho. They hold themselves to a very high standard as they establish an escapement objective. They want to say with some certainty that they are producing high levels of sustained yield with the number that they choose. Their data base is not long for most of the systems and they are developing information that will lead to establishment of MSY escapement goals. For the present time, most systems they are tracking and working on were average levels compared to other years they have in the data base. CHAIRMAN HALFORD asked where Upper Cook Inlet chums were. MR. KEVIN DELANEY, Director, Division of Sport Fish, explained that like pink salmon, the chum harvest has been going down. When looking at catch per unit of effort information, they can see that it is also going down. They have told the Board and the public that at some point, they would take action in the commercial sockeye fishery to insure that those yields will build back up. A lot of these are trade offs the Board of Fisheries and the Department have made in the process of prosecuting various fisheries that in some areas of the State, they will probably forgo maximizing the yield on chum salmon; and sockeyes are chosen because they are of more value. Nevertheless, they are not going to drive those stocks into extinction. CHAIRMAN HALFORD asked if all they have is harvest data. MR. DELANEY answered that in some areas of Cook Inlet he knows there is escapement information. He didn't know how long or how deep or which major systems it covers. They are a difficult species to assess; they aren't the drivers of the fishery. He said the projects that were on the CIP can be seen on page 1 of the attached list. They put an interdivisional team together of region and area staff from the Cook Inlet. The projects were already there and there was a finite amount of money. Some money went to Habitat, part of it went to genetic stock identification for Cook Inlet sockeye. There is the problem of developing a method in season where you can determine the abundance of Northern district, particularly Susitna Basin and Kenai sockeye, in that central district commercial fishery. About half of the money is going into sockeye and coho work in the Susitna/Yetna Basin and some of it is going to other northern district coho. Essentially, they are targeting stock assessment to see how well the Yetna works for sockeye, how well it indexes the whole area, and to see if they can use Yetna sonar for coho, and if so, how well and what should be the index there. An unidentified speaker said they have another project on the Cottonwood system where they have a weir in upper Knik Arm. CHAIRMAN HALFORD thanked everyone for their testimony.