Legislature(1997 - 1998)

04/01/1998 04:00 PM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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                 
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            
SENATOR TORGERSON said he would like see some kind of local veto               
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                    
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              
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                      
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            
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            
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.                         

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