Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/22/1995 05:02 PM FSH
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HFSH - 03/22/95 HB 149 - RESTRUCTURE BOARD OF FISHERIES Number 034 REPRESENTATIVE RAMONA BARNES opened with these remarks: "HB 149 is an effort to reduce the role politics play in a process of placing members on the fisheries board. The bill, which is identical to one introduced by the Senate President, would reduce the membership of the board of fisheries to three and lengthen the terms of office for members to four years. The members would, as presently, serve staggered terms. Fisheries board members would be full-time state employees and would be compensated based on range 26, step C." REPRESENTATIVE BARNES went on to quote state laws dealing with the appointment of Board of Fish members. She quoted, "On the basis of interest in public affairs, good judgement, knowledge and ability in the feel of action of the board and with a view toward providing diversity of interest and points of view of the membership." She went on to say that in fact, the members of the board have been appointed in the past on the basis of where they live and what they do for a living. REPRESENTATIVE BARNES specified, "A provision in HB 149 would prohibit the Governor from appointing to the board, anyone who has a vested economic interest in the fisheries. This provision is endorsed by individuals and groups which include, the Kenai River Sports Fishing, Inc." She then quoted Ben Ellis, Executive Director of that sports association with comments he made to the Senate Resources Committee on February 20, 1995. He stated at that time, "We must have a board that is prohibited from any economic vested interest. It appears more and more board members are being conflicted out for financial or personal interest. We must have a level playing field, where decisions are made in the best interests of Alaskan's and the state. There is public perception that the board of fisheries is biased towards the financial profits of a few commercial users at the expense of thousands of noncommercial users. I believe that the concept of a full-time board is a good one. Members would be more likely to act in the interest of the state as a whole. The provisions that forbids a board member from having a vested economic interest will encouraged appointments to the board that will make impartial decisions." REPRESENTATIVE BARNES asserted her strong feelings for Alaska's Constitution. She cited, "Under Article 8, Section 3, the fish and game and water resources belong to all the people of the state. Admittedly, the people of the state allowed an amendment for commercial limited entry." She recognized, that is the only special provision that has be approved by the people. But she went on to state, "They did not give an exclusive right of fishery to commercial fishermen, nor did they give it to subsistence fishermen or to sports fishermen or personal consumptive users. Those resources belong to all the people." She expressed hope that through a different type of board, all the people of this state will be treated in a fair and equal manner. Number 128 Representative Moses joined the meeting at 5:03 p.m. Number 129 REPRESENTATIVE KIM ELTON asked Representative Barnes if she would be amenable to an amendment that would prohibit sport fishing guides or people who are involved in other commercial fishing components of the resource industry. REPRESENTATIVE BARNES responded in the affirmative. She said, "I don't believe anyone that holds a special interest in this fishery, whether it be sports fishing guides or air taxi operators that fly people out to fish, should be on this board. I think it should be one that is knowledgeable of the resource, but has no vested interest." Number 150 REPRESENTATIVE CARL MOSES asked Representative Barnes if it was her intent to eliminate all sports fishermen from serving on the board, as well. REPRESENTATIVE BARNES commented, "As long as a person did not have an economic interest. And that would include sports fish guides, that would have an economic interest. I would see them eliminated. However, I can't say that a person that just goes out with a hook and line should be eliminated, because they have no direct commercial interest in the board. But I do believe that it should be professional type people, who have a knowledge of the resource, appointed to these boards." REPRESENTATIVE MOSES followed up with a question about subsistence users and their economic interests. REPRESENTATIVE BARNES again responded, "I believe it should be a board made up that takes into view, the people of all the state of Alaska in a professional way and not any one group of people." Number 175 REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT OGAN asked Representative Barnes that given those parameters, who is going to serve on this board. He further asked how the board would be structured, so that it would be impartial. REPRESENTATIVE BARNES again reiterated her strong compassion for the Constitution of Alaska. She asserted, "I believe the fish and game resources should be maintained on a sustained yield principle, for all the people of the state, for their beneficial use. Not users, the beneficial use of all the people. I believe that there are a lot of people, like myself in this state, that care about the resources and could go on a board professionally and make the decisions based on professional judgement, not on what is best for one particular user group." Number 229 BRUCE SCHACTLER testified via teleconference from Kodiak, and voiced his opposition to HB 149. He commented, "They want a board that will vote pro sport fish." He went on to compliment the current Board of Fish by saying, "This may be one of the better boards they have come up with. They're just unbelievably ready to delve into every aspect of the fishery and nitpick every single detail, that they can get their hands on." He further stated, "If you look at some of these other professional boards, you'll see that the requirements for being a board member are very stringent. They have to have degrees. They have to have experience." He added, "This will put a bunch of people on the board that maybe have no idea what it is that they're talking about. It might take them three or four years to even get them on line." He again mentioned that the present board is good and that the entire industry has had input into fine tuning the present board. MR. SCHACTLER informed the committee, that he felt most of the sport fishermen can go out and catch as much fish as they can possibly use. He remarked, "I think most of the people that are out there sport fishing are catching more than they can possibly eat and there's a lot of waste going on." He further mentioned, "I think that you'll find that everything really is pretty good, except for a few people, who have got everybody all worked up." REPRESENTATIVE BARNES responded, "I was not looking for a special interest board, to protect sports fishing. I'm glad to hear, that he thinks that the board we now have, is a good board. I'm sure it is one of the better boards that we've had in a long time. I remember all the hassles that we went through to get this better board. It is my opinion and my belief, that you would not have controversy surrounding this board, if the boards in the past had taken care to look at the sustained yield principle. Had they taken care to look at the needs of all the different user groups, then there would be no need to have a bill like this." Number 340 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN remarked that he is upset with people from the sports side and the commercial side of this issue. He voiced his opinion that everybody loses if we don't start managing this thing as a resource. Everybody needs to pull together on this issue. Number 355 JOHN BOCCI testified via teleconference from Cordova, representing Cordova District Fishermen United, opposing HB 149. He stated for the record, "It is our opinion that HB 149 is an overreaction to a newly developing problem, being created more by pressure on the fishery resource, due in part to increased tourism and the Mat-Su Valley population growth. Instead of gutting the system that we're involved in here, I urge the legislature to keep the lay board structure, amend it gradually and give those gradual changes an opportunity to work. A very good recommendation was put forward by the Governor's Fishery Transition Team, with representatives from all user groups. One suggestion is reflected by HB 141, confirmation before serving. Another way to ensure adequate funding is to ensure adequate funding for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the local advisory board. All of which had their budget slashed over the last several years, making it more difficult to put forward a proper management plan to assure there are enough fish for everyone. There's no language in HB 149 that sets criteria for participation, other than they have no interest in commercial fishing. Yet there's no definition of commercial fishing, the way I see it. We really don't believe it will depoliticize the board." Number 385 MYRON NANAG, President, Association of Village Council Presidents, testified via teleconference from Bethel. He encouraged the state legislature to look at the current Board of Fish. He said it is not working for the conservation of the fisheries. He stated, "In 1993, we had a crash in the Alaska Yukon/Kuskokwim (AYK) area. Nobody wanted to take the responsibility for the crash, but our people have had to bear that burden of conservation in the river system over the years." They have been to the Board of Fish many times to inform them about the resource. MR. NANAG went on to share some remarks made at the February Board of Fish meeting. He disclosed that the chairman of the board, listened to presentations by the ADF&G about the united stock studies on the catch ratios of the chums heading to the AYK area. The Chair stated that he was not convinced that the stocks that were heading to Western Alaska, are threatened or endangered. Mr. Nanag remarked, "If that is the criteria that is going to be used by the Board of Fish system and they're not concerned about the conservation of the resource, then something has to give." He went on to specify, "The subsistence has been closed for the last two years on the Kuskokwim River as well as on the Yukon. The commercial fisheries along the migratory route, further south, have been open. They have not been closed. They've been delayed, but opened. Why have they been delayed? The only thing they're concerned about is their allocation, the 8.3 percent allocation of the Bristol Bay sockeye. But they don't have any concern about the resource itself." REPRESENTATIVE BARNES appreciated Mr. Nanag's comments. She said that it's comments like these that she has been hearing for a long time. She stated, "The interest of the resource has to be protected, through a different type of board system." Number 446 MIM ROBINSON, Chairmen, Port Alexander Fish and Game Advisory Committee, testified via teleconference from Port Alexander, in opposition to this bill. She cited part of the text from the Fisheries Management Alternative Senate Advisory Council of the Alaska State Legislature, October 1987, concerning a full-time board. She read, "Number one, a professional board would simply add another layer of bureaucracy, with its intended inefficiencies and tendencies to invent work, formalize and impede the process and unnecessarily intrude into situations which do not warrant regulatory action. Number two, a professional board could not duplicate the wide scope of expertise found on the current user board. The type of people willing to serve on a board, would be those who lacked personal commitment to the fishing lifestyle or were unsuccessful on fishermen and thus would be unqualified for service. Eminently qualified people who were unwilling to relinquish their interest, would be unavailable." MS. ROBINSON still testifying said, "Number three, a professional board would not eliminate conflict of interest, since any member appointed would certainly bring with him or her an agenda and perspective developed as a result of previous experience, regardless of whether any economic or institutional ties to the resource existed. Certain perspectives, such as the regulatory or academics would assume unjustified precedent over those of user groups." She went on to mention another study that had been done and a report to the Governor on the Board of Fisheries review committee of February 1988. She cited the following, "While it is recognized by the committee that conflict of interests and special interest biases, can be and has at times been a problem with board members, the unanimous view of the committee and a majority view received from the public, supports appointments to the board of persons with hands on knowledge of, and experience with fisheries resources and sport, commercial, subsistence and personal use fishery." She also asked the committee to consider placing the conservation decision making authority within the ADF&G, to rid the board of the dual pressure of conservation and allocation decisions. Number 491 LAURA RIDEOUT testified via teleconference from Port Alexander, in opposition to HB 149. She felt that it needed to be a board of seven men or women who have a working knowledge of the fisheries. She also urged enough funding for ADF&G and its advisory board to ensure proper management. Number 500 CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN thank Representative Barnes and excused her for another meeting. Number 502 JERRY McCUNE, President, United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA), testified that they do not support HB 149, but do support the current lay board system. He felt that a lay board system brings in people from all over the state with a broad knowledge of the fishery. He pointed out that even the Governor's transition team recommended keeping the present lay board system. He also stated that UFA had a problem with the section of the bill that says, the full-time board won't accept any commercial fishermen. He explained that about 48 people turned out on the Senate side in opposition to this proposal. The conflict of interest issue does need to be addressed and could be done so by the introduction of legislation. He also thought that the sponsor brought a lot of attention to the board system with the introduction of this bill. He stated, "The board is not cure for all the salmon runs, especially in river systems. We get into river systems and it's management. Some of it's management, healthy runs, habitat, sustain yield and ocean survival has a lot to do with it." He further said, "I think we have to face up to the fact that there's only so much resource to go around in this state and the use is getting higher every year. All the users would like to have their share." Additionally he remarked, "Mr. Ogan's suggestion is good. I think the sport fishermen, the subsistence and everybody need to realize that there is only so much resource and sit down to the table and see what we can do for all the users to be able to have access to that resource." Number 557 DEAN PADDOCK, spoke on behalf of the Bristol Bay Driftnetters Association, with concerns about HB 149. He complimented anyone who seeks to improve the board process. He digressed about how there are problems with several aspects of the current process and how the problems seem so much more complicated. His main concern with this proposal was expressed, "I don't think there are three people anywhere capable of addressing all these statewide issues adequately." He mentioned that it is implied in this proposal that the seven people we now have aren't doing it adequately. He further commented, "The legislature has often failed to adequately fund the Board of Fisheries, to allow it to meet its statutory responsibilities. The one responsibility that I see that it has seldom had time to adequately address, is that responsibility for providing policies for the ADF&G." He has seen the board disregard public testimony and accept the ADF&G recommendations. He feels that ADF&G doesn't supply enough information to the Board of Fish. Number 659 GERON BRUCE, Legislative Liaison, Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G), testified with concerns about HB 149. He indicated that the Governor does support the citizen board process, but is concerned about what the citizens feel might improve the process. He reiterated earlier comments with, "One of the reasons we have a citizen board is because it provides an opportunity for the affected public to directly participate in making the decisions that affect their effecting. And you get a high degree of local knowledge about the fisheries in the state that way and you get a lot of industry expertise that way, at very little cost to the state. Whereas, if you had to go out and staff up, so to speak, to gain that kind of expertise, it would be very expensive." Additionally he reported that, "Even by shrinking the board down to three members, it still adds over $200,000 in cost to the regulatory process." Further he stated, "Coming out of the territorial period, where the managers and the folks responsible for regulating the resources did not listen to the people of Alaska - in fact, did things that the people of Alaska objected to for many, many years and did not change until the state took over management authority. The original people who set up the board process looked at that and saw that it was better to have the public directly involved in the regulatory process than to have it done completely by bureaucrats or professional people, that did not have that local tie to the decisions that are being made." He felt that going to a professional board is not going to eliminate the conflicts and the controversies regarding fisheries decisions within the state. TAPE 95-19, SIDE B Number 000 MR. BRUCE continued testifying with concerns about HB 149. He remarked, "I think that the sponsors of this legislation here and in the Senate are to be thanked for providing a vehicle to discuss the board system." Number 014 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN asked Mr. Bruce if he felt the current board was managing the fisheries resource on a resource-based management that adheres to the sustained yield principle. MR. BRUCE responded in the affirmative. He pointed to the historic high harvest that Alaska has been enjoying for more than a decade. He compared that to the kind of condition the resources were in at the end of the federal period. He thought that they were doing a good job in managing on the sustained yield basis. He stated, "This does not mean that there aren't problems in the state, where we are failing to meet our goals. Certainly, Mr. Nanag earlier spoke to one of the most difficult problems we're facing in Western Alaska. I know there is some concerns you have and your constituents have your area." He further related, "As I listen to the conflicts and the reasons people are unhappy with the board system, it seems to really be more focused on the distribution of work that the board does in allocating harvest among different users." Number 052 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN indicated that the return to the Susitna River drainage has been low. He asked if all the Cook Inlet stocks are managed for the Kenai River. He also asked if the leftovers run up the Susitna Inlet. MR. BRUCE felt that it was not an accurate statement. He specified, "Certainly in the case where you have the Kenai River on a particular year, being extremely strong, it becomes a very big factor and perhaps a dominating factor in the management of Cook Inlet. He further mentioned, "In the case of Sockeye salmon, the escapements to the Susitna drainage have been improving. So I think the ADF&G has been taking measures there to try and get more fish up into the Susitna Basin. In the case of Chinook salmon, the Kenai River does not drive Chinook salmon management in Cook Inlet at all." Number 111 REPRESENTATIVE GARY DAVIS was looking at the fiscal note and asked Mr. Bruce if this note was in addition to the current board expenditures or is this note the cost of the new proposal. MR. BRUCE responded that the fiscal note attached to HB 149 was additional costs. Number 124 CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN asked Mr. Bruce what the current expenditures were for the Board of Fish. MR. BRUCE responded that the total board support section is $1.6 million with about $1 million going to the Board of Fish and the Board of Game combined. The $600,000 left over is for support of the Fish and Game Advisory Committee. CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN asked Mr. Bruce if the $1 million for the two boards is split equally. MR. BRUCE responded that they are not split equally, because the Board of Fish have more meeting days. He indicated that the difference was slightly more for the Board of Fish but could not give an exact figure. Number 140 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON had a few suggestions to make, since the intent is to hold this bill. With concern he said, "Right now we have seven people that are kind of going out and rubbing shoulders in regions all across the state. I make the argument, not enough regions of the state or not the right regions of the state, but that's a political argument, so I won't do it. The other concern that I have about that, is that if we create a professional board of three people, what we're going to end up doing is putting three people in a state office building in an urban area. They're going to have a professional support staff. I think that people who are concerned that the board right now is a captive of the professional staff, they don't know what being a captive is until you've got three bureaucrats sitting in a state office building." REPRESENTATIVE ELTON also asserted, "I think we've had a lot of success with the current board structure. I think maybe one of the ways you gauge that success is you take a look at what the traditional harvest was in the mid-1970s. I think it dropped to a low of 22 million fish. Over the last three or four years, as Mr. Bruce has noted, we've approach a harvest of 200 million fish." He also mentioned that we have the ADF&G who have the resources to get the basic research that's needed to manage a very complex fishery. He went on to say that when we diminish the ADF&G's ability to accomplish that research, we're diminishing the ability of the board to make judgments on resource allocations that are based on science, rather than antidote. CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN revealed that was one of the reasons why he wanted to hold all these similar bills and discuss each one and get a flavor for what the real problems are. He felt that the committee could then reach a consensus on what to do and even come out with a policy statement on the Board of Fish. Number 223 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN expressed concern that there are people in this state that do not feel the resource is being managed for the resource. He felt that the Board of Fish fails to respond adequately at times to problems and so you have bills that come forth like this one. He indicated that he was supporting this bill for the sake of discussion. He again encouraged the groups to get together. Number 260 CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN set forth that HB 149 would be held.