Legislature(2009 - 2010)BUTROVICH 205

04/06/2009 03:30 PM RESOURCES

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Heard & Held
Heard & Held
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         SB 177-NO REPEAL OF SPORT FISH GUIDE LICENSING                                                                     
3:42:08 PM                                                                                                                    
CO-CO-CHAIR MCGUIREI announced the consideration of SB 177.                                                                     
SENATOR  KEVIN MEYER,  Alaska State  Legislature,  sponsor of  SB
177, said this legislation provides  continued oversight of sport                                                               
fishing  operators  and  guides.   The  licensing  and  reporting                                                               
program has proven  beneficial to the sport  fishing industry and                                                               
those who manage fishing  resources. Legislation authorizing this                                                               
program  started in  2004 for  the following  reasons: 1)  Alaska                                                               
Department  of  Fish  and  Game   (ADF&G)  sought  more  credible                                                               
information on guide  numbers and activities; 2)  to create basic                                                               
standards for sport fish business  operators and guides including                                                               
liability  insurance, first  aid certification,  and USGS  vessel                                                               
licensing  if  applicable;  and  3)  to  increase  the  level  of                                                               
professionalism  in  the  sport  fish  industry  statewide.  Many                                                               
former  skeptics now  acknowledge  the role  these measures  have                                                               
played  in advancing  the guiding  profession,  which has  helped                                                               
raise the standard of the sport fish industry statewide.                                                                        
SENATOR  MEYER  concluded  that  SB  177  will  permit  ADF&G  to                                                               
continue  to  foster the  high  standards  in sport  fishing  and                                                               
guiding that everyone expects.                                                                                                  
3:45:17 PM                                                                                                                    
CHARLES  SWANTON,  Director,  Division   of  Sport  Fish,  Alaska                                                               
Department of  Fish and  Game (ADF&G), said  the data  that ADF&G                                                               
collects in its logbook program  has allowed it to seek exemption                                                               
from the  national saltwater  registry, which  tries to  get that                                                               
same  information. Other  states do  not have  a similar  logbook                                                               
program  and  the  information   is  difficult  to  collect  from                                                               
He reported that ADF&G issues  about 1,670 sport fishing business                                                               
licenses and 1,981  sport fishing guide licenses  that are issued                                                               
annually. The  logbook data comprises  about 1.8  million clients                                                               
taken out over the course of  the last three years. He noted that                                                               
ADF&G hopes  to markedly reduce the  amount of paper used  in the                                                               
program over the next two years.                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  WIELECHOWSKI asked  if the  administration supports  SB
MR. SWANTON answered yes.                                                                                                       
JACK CADIGAN,  Juneau, said  he is  representing himself,  but he                                                               
feels he  can speak  for many  other saltwater  charter operators                                                               
who are against  SB 177. He is a retired  Coast Guard captain and                                                               
a licensed  charter fishing  operator. He  doesn't object  to the                                                               
state requiring  licensing and  regulating of  various industries                                                               
and occupations, but  it seems that charter  fishing in navigable                                                               
waters   within  Alaska   is  already   heavily  regulated.   The                                                               
competency and  integrity of the  operators is  therefore ensured                                                               
at a  substantial cost  in user fees  and licenses.  He submitted                                                               
that it  doesn't cost  the state anywhere  near $100  to annually                                                               
provide a charter  applicant with a license  and sticker. Indeed,                                                               
in 2010 the annual fee for  many Alaska business licenses will be                                                               
half  that  or less.  In  addition  to  an Alaska  fishing  guide                                                               
license,  the charter  operator and  crew must  purchase a  sport                                                               
fishing license, even  though prohibited from fishing  while on a                                                               
charter. Charter  operators must  also purchase a  state business                                                               
license.  Depending on  location, operators  must also  possess a                                                               
local sales tax license. The  federal government requires a Coast                                                               
Guard   license,    a   transportation    worker   identification                                                               
certificate  (TWIC), enrollment  in a  drug testing  program, and                                                               
current certificates in first aid  and CPR. The aggregate cost to                                                               
the charter operator is $1,100  over a five-year period or $1,600                                                               
if SB 177 is enacted. This  is exclusive of keeping first aid and                                                               
CPR  certifications  current.  The charter  industry  is  rigidly                                                               
controlled and  receives random inspections by  state and federal                                                               
authorities to ensure compliance.                                                                                               
3:50:02 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. CADIGAN  said that in addition  to money what the  state gets                                                               
in return for  its licensing program is a detailed  log sheet for                                                               
analysis of  every charter.  The logs list  rod hours  and dates,                                                               
the name and  license number of the fisher, the  fish species and                                                               
where  it was  caught. If  halibut  are caught,  the fisher  must                                                               
certify that by signing on the  back of the log sheet. Failure to                                                               
submit  the log  sheet on  time results  in a  hefty fine  to the                                                               
charter operator.                                                                                                               
MR. CADIGAN suggested that rather  than charging for licenses, it                                                               
would be  more reasonable for the  state to pay a  modest stipend                                                               
to  those who  submit the  logs. It  takes considerable  time and                                                               
effort  for  charter  operators  to  deliver  for  analysis  this                                                               
apparently important  information. He submitted that  it would be                                                               
most reasonable  to allow this  program to sunset by  not passing                                                               
SB 177.                                                                                                                         
3:51:07 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGGINS asked  how these  requirements have  accumulated                                                               
over the years.                                                                                                                 
MR. CADIGAN said  the Coast Guard has for some  time required all                                                               
charter  operators in  the navigable  waters  of the  U.S. to  be                                                               
appropriately licensed.  He first  received his license  in 1952.                                                               
The TWIC  is a recent  requirement by the Department  of Homeland                                                               
Security to  ensure that  people working  on the  waterfront have                                                               
undergone background checks. He  isn't sure when the requirements                                                               
for CPR  and first aid  were instituted. The random  drug testing                                                               
program probably came in 15-20 years ago.                                                                                       
SENATOR WAGONER asked if drug  tests are required more frequently                                                               
than when renewing a license.                                                                                                   
MR. CADIGAN said  charter operators [and their  crew] must enroll                                                               
in an annual random drug testing  program or have had a drug test                                                               
within  six months  of  a  random test.  This  is  a Coast  Guard                                                               
requirement.  Responding to  questions  from  Senator Wagoner  he                                                               
added  that  this  is  a requirement  for  operators  that  carry                                                               
3:54:06 PM                                                                                                                    
ROBERT  L. JANES,  representing  himself, Valdez,  said  he is  a                                                               
licensed charter captain and he opposes  SB 177. His view is that                                                               
the  program  instituted  in  2004   is  discriminatory  and  was                                                               
justified by inherently erroneous  testimony from Rob Bentz, [the                                                               
former   Deputy  Director,   Division  of   Sport  Fish,   Alaska                                                               
Department of  Fish &  Game]. He pointed  out that  sport fishing                                                               
operators  are required  to  pay  a number  of  fees and  acquire                                                               
certifications  that  the  commercial  longline  fisherman  isn't                                                               
required to pay.                                                                                                                
3:58:14 PM                                                                                                                    
MELVIN GROVE,  representing himself,  Mat-Su, said he  opposes SB
177. He  provides a service  transporting Alaskans from  the dock                                                               
to a fishing boat so that  people can harvest their own resource.                                                               
He understands  that he  must pay the  government to  operate his                                                               
business, but  when the  state instituted a  new $100  sport fish                                                               
guide license it seemed to  break with its past licensing policy,                                                               
which is  that fees cover only  the cost of issuance.  He pointed                                                               
out that  it only costs  the commercial halibut fisherman  $25 to                                                               
harvest a public resource yet  the halibut charter guide must pay                                                               
$100 to  provide a service  so the  public can harvest  their own                                                               
resource. He questions how this can be justified.                                                                               
In  2004 ADF&G  testified that  the reporting  requirements would                                                               
provide comprehensive  information on the impact  of guided sport                                                               
fishing  activities.  This will  lead  to  better regulations  to                                                               
protect  the  states  sport  fishing   resources.  None  of  this                                                               
happened and nothing  has improved. Even after  the guides submit                                                               
detailed  reports  ADF&G contacts  the  fishers  to verify  their                                                               
success. He asked why guides should  be put to the trouble if the                                                               
department is going to do that.                                                                                                 
4:01:34 PM                                                                                                                    
ROD ARNO,  Executive Director, Alaska Outdoor  Council, said this                                                               
10,000  member statewide  organization continues  to support  the                                                               
legislation originally  passed in 2004. The  only concern relates                                                               
to  some of  the intent  of the  legislation. In  particular, the                                                               
data  has not  been used  to legitimize  the allocation  process.                                                               
Also, AOC was  told that information on the  economic impacts and                                                               
contribution of  sport fish  in Alaska still  can't be  used when                                                               
looking  at  the  economic  importance   of  the  resource.  This                                                               
legislation  won't  change  that,  but  in order  for  it  to  be                                                               
effective the  Board of Fisheries  needs to see  this information                                                               
as being legitimate.                                                                                                            
4:04:10 PM                                                                                                                    
RON RAINEY, Kenai River Sportfishing  Association (KRSA), said he                                                               
is speaking  in support of SB  177. The log book  program has not                                                               
been  successful  because  data   compilation  and  reporting  is                                                               
difficult. If the reports were  in digital format the information                                                               
would  be readily  available for  allocation  decisions the  next                                                               
day.  He lives  at mile  10 of  the Kenai  River and  the fishing                                                               
pressure on the  lower end of the river has  increased tenfold in                                                               
the last 20  years. Clearly there is a need  for daily reports on                                                               
fish catches so ADF&G can  use that information in their decision                                                               
making. He  won't argue with the  assertion that the $100  fee is                                                               
probably too much,  but digital reporting would  be an invaluable                                                               
aid in  managing the resource.  KRSA hardily endorses  passage of                                                               
SB 177, he said.                                                                                                                
SENATOR WAGONER said he will support the bill.                                                                                  
4:06:29 PM                                                                                                                    
PATRICK  BOOKEY, Luck  of the  Irish,  North Pole,  said this  is                                                               
nothing but  a big  tax on  charter operators.  His documentation                                                               
fees for  life rafts, drug  testing, and various other  fees cost                                                               
nearly $3,000  per year and  the log book program  consumes about                                                               
30 minutes of his time each  day. For years ADF&G touted the best                                                               
creel surveys  in the  nation and he  questions what  happened to                                                               
that. This  appears to be nothing  more than a tax  on the public                                                               
users of this resource and he would like the program to sunset.                                                                 
SENATOR WAGONER  pointed out that  life rafts have nothing  to do                                                               
with this fee.                                                                                                                  
MR.  BOOKEY said  it's just  another requirement  and fee  by the                                                               
U.S. Coast  Guard to  maintain and operate  a business.  No other                                                               
water-based  business is  required  to have  them  and have  them                                                               
inspected yearly.                                                                                                               
SENATOR  WAGONER clarified  that commercial  fishermen that  fish                                                               
past three  miles are required  to carry an inspected  life raft.                                                               
Responding to  an assertion that  Prince William  Sound fishermen                                                               
don't carry  inspected life rafts,  he pointed out that  they are                                                               
not outside of state waters.                                                                                                    
MR.  BOOKEY said  he  sees them  fishing  outside the  three-mile                                                               
limit all the time.                                                                                                             
GEORGE WIESE,  Leisure Charters, Valdez,  said he too  objects to                                                               
the  sport fishing  guide fee.  It's excessive  compared to  what                                                               
commercial fishers pay.  Acknowledging that it's not  part of the                                                               
bill, he  said he also  objects to  having to get  a sportfishing                                                               
license only to be told he can't fish.                                                                                          
CO-CHAIR MCGUIRE closed public testimony.                                                                                       
4:10:02 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  WAGONER observed  that  the  difference in  requirements                                                               
between  commercial and  sportfishing doesn't  have a  lot to  do                                                               
with this. However, just today he  checked and found that in Cook                                                               
Inlet a  commercial vessel license  to fish for salmon  costs $60                                                               
per year and  a permit card costs $75. In  Prince William Sound a                                                               
vessel  license costs  $375 per  year and  the permit  card costs                                                               
$370. The  point is  that commercial fishers  pay much  more than                                                               
$25 to fish  halibut or salmon, he said. He  understands that the                                                               
guide  fee is  expensive, but  he  believes that  there are  good                                                               
reasons for that expense.                                                                                                       
SENATOR HUGGINS said  he is not familiar with  the whole concept,                                                               
but  he  is  surprised  that  this  fee  was  excluded  when  the                                                               
administration  pushed  to  lower  licensing fees.  He  asked  if                                                               
anyone knows why.                                                                                                               
4:12:39 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. SWANTON said  he believes that the difference  stems from the                                                               
fact that  the fees are not  housed in the same  area. Commercial                                                               
licensing  is  occupational  while  the  sportfishing  guide  fee                                                               
resides within the codified regulations of ADF&G.                                                                               
SENATOR   HUGGINS  asked   if  the   department  supports   equal                                                               
opportunity to pay.                                                                                                             
MR. SWANTON said  he is not prepared to discuss  the actual fees.                                                               
"Right  now,  they   are  what  they  are."   The  program  isn't                                                               
completely solvent right now and  to a certain extent ADF&G would                                                               
like to address that internally while the program is updated.                                                                   
SENATOR HUGGINS said  the administration owes it  to the citizens                                                               
to coordinate among the departments.                                                                                            
CO-CHAIR MCGUIREI announced she would hold SB 177 in committee.                                                                 

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB 177 - Bill Packet.pdf SRES 4/6/2009 3:30:00 PM
SB 177
HB 134 - Bill Packet.pdf SRES 4/6/2009 3:30:00 PM
SB 134