Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/06/1996 05:10 PM FSH
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 538 - VESSEL MORATORIUM FOR HAIR CRAB FISHERY Number 0068 CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN noted that the first item of business would be HB 538. He called upon Amy Daugherty to present the sponsor statement on behalf of the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee, for which Representative Austerman is co-chairman. AMY DAUGHERTY, Legislative Assistant to Representative Alan Austerman, read the sponsor statement for HB 538: "In the 1980s, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game conducted an experimental fishery for Korean hair crab. Due to many unknowns at that time about this extremely fragile species and the delicate habitat in which it exists, the stocks were quickly depleted and the fishery was closed. "By 1991, stocks had rebounded and two Alaskan-owned vessels were able to conduct another experimental fishery in the immediate vicinity of the Pribilof Islands. "Alaska fishermen, working cooperatively with ADF&G, have since established permit guidelines pertaining to the configuration and size of the pots used, as well as handling techniques to ensure that these delicate animals are not harmed by the fishing effort. To limit the effort, ADF&G has ensured the fishery is opened simultaneously with other crab fisheries in the Bering Sea. "Recently, however, dramatic declines in the harvest guidelines for other crab stocks have resulted in additional effort entering the Korean hair crab fishery. The 15-20 vessels currently participating in the fishery have already marginalized the opportunities for the Alaskans who pioneered this fishery. "If this fishery, created by Alaskans, is to remain viable, entry must be limited as soon as possible." Number 0190 MS. DAUGHERTY noted that there was a small amendment, the insertion of one word, that had been provided in writing to the committee. Number 0201 CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN briefly mentioned reasons for introducing the bill, including the small size of the fishery, the amount of effort going toward it and its fragility. "We knew we didn't have time this year to get in any kind of a limited entry or real control on that fishery," he said. "The concept of this bill before you is to basically put a moratorium on it to give us time to work on that ... fisheries." Number 0292 REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT OGAN asked if there were incidental catches in other crab fisheries or whether hair crab was a targeted, individual, specific fishery that only went after those particular crabs. CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN suggested that representatives from the Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) could be asked that question. He noted that the amendment mentioned by Ms. Daugherty was on page 2, line 25, and agreed to call it Amendment 1. Number 0370 REPRESENTATIVE KIM ELTON moved that Amendment 1 be adopted. There being no objection, it was so ordered. JOHN WINTHER testified that he was a Petersburg resident who got started in commercial fishing in 1964 in Juneau, moving in 1973 to the Bering Sea, where he built a crab boat and had fished ever since. He said his vessel became involved in the hair crab fisheries in 1994. Although there were 11 vessels at the time, there had only been three or four vessels a couple of years prior to that. "It's one of the few fisheries that's managed by the state of Alaska without a fisheries management plan under the council, so there's no jurisdiction under the council to do anything - it lies with the state of Alaska," he explained. He mentioned that the season started November 1; in 1995, 15-18 boats showed up. Mr. Winther indicated the fishery had a quota of 1.5 million pounds. The crabs, which were small and fragile, were usually caught one to three at a time, per pot. They were specially processed and marketed and required being taken to shore every few days. Number 0489 MR. WINTHER suggested that with the big influx of vessels, there would be management problems. The department had indicated if the effort could not be controlled, they would shut down the fishery because they could not manage it with the number of boats coming in. "So, those of us in the fisheries got together," Mr. Winther explained, "and see if we could do something about it through the state. And in the process, we learned that the current system in place allows only a license to go to an individual. And in the Bering Sea, the fisheries are probably 99 percent nonowner skippers on board those boats. So if that system went into place, then all these nonowner skippers would have the ticket to fish and there's nothing to keep them on board your boat. And they'd go someplace else and there you're stuck." Mr. Winther referred to the early days of the fishery and said, "the four or five boats that were in there were all Alaska residents." He added, "Now, there's still four or five boats in there and there's 15 Seattle boats." He emphasized that the dilution of Alaska participants was increasing rapidly. "We had a major share," he said, "but now we don't." They were therefore asking the legislature for a moratorium and to give the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission (CFEC) the authority to implement a vessel license program. "Because up there, it's not like other local fisheries where you're working out of your home all the time," he said. "Up there, when you leave home, you're gone for months at a time and it's just not conducive to a skipper- type of limited entry system," he said, referring to salmon and herring fishery management. Number 0609 MR. WINTHER emphasized that a key point of the bill was the 1996 cut-off date. "Because the season will open again November 1, 1996," he said, "and any more effort coming in - it'll probably double again, because our other fisheries that start on that date, namely, the red king crab fisheries, we don't have that anymore." For example, the bairdi crab fishery that usually opened at the same time would not happen this year due to decreased stocks. "So that's going to leave this one the only one to hit," he said. He expressed concern that with increased boats, the season would be short and uneconomical, whereas now, although it was marginal for the boats already there, it was economical. Number 0684 MR. WINTHER concluded by saying the fishery was slow and required careful handling of the crabs, which were specially marketed in Japan. "All these crabs are brought onshore in Alaska," he said, indicating crabs from some other fisheries were processed offshore. Number 0709 REPRESENTATIVE GARY DAVIS asked where the crab were found. MR. WINTHER referred to a wall map and said they were found in a "block around the Pribilof Islands," which was the only area with an amount to provide a fishery currently. "And the crabs are so fragile, you can't even fish in rough weather," he said. "You've got to stop. Where you would keep on fishing in the other fisheries, you stop because of the tossing around in the tank, the handling of them on the deck, things like that." Number 0769 GORDON BLUE testified he owned a vessel named the Ocean Cape that had been involved since the reopening of the Korean hair crab fishery around the Pribilofs in 1991. He was a participating partner and manager of a second vessel, which was also owned by the community development quota (CDQ) and Native village corporation for St. Paul. "So, we have strong local participation in that vessel," he explained. "It was put together largely to bring some real local participation to this fishery." Number 0831 MR. BLUE said, "I want to underscore John Winters' statements about the fragility of these crab." He explained there was a rapid build-up in the early 1980s from vessels displaced from Bristol Bay red king crab when that fishery collapsed. "We had, I think, 76 vessels in '82, something like that, in the fishery, all fishing with whatever pots they could use, and they delivered about two million pounds of product; and then the fishery collapsed. Now, the present fishery is sustaining nearly that much product. I believe the difference is that we handle the crab differently. We have a very limited type of gear that the Department of Fish and Game has worked to standardize for the industry. It's a small pot that's fished on long lines and it's specially designed for this fishery. It limits by-catch and it limits handling of the ... crab that we do retain. We land them on a sorting table that is specially cushioned and we just handle them very carefully. And I think that reduction in mortality is only possible with the relatively small amount of effort in vessels that are in the fishery now." Mr. Blue noted that the by-catch that occurred in the bairdi crab fishery in the area was relatively small. He said the Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) had allowed some by-catch landings after that fishery reopened; however, there was a lot of dead-loss and they were then outlawed. Number 0945 MR. BLUE emphasized the importance of the fishery to St. Paul residents, who had worked hard to establish a no-trawl zone around the islands, which ADF&G had helped with, to protect habitat for the Korean hair crab, as well as for king crab in the area. "And that seems to be paying off," Mr. Blue said. "There's a small fishery in each of those that's now allowed. If the vessels that are displaced by the closure of red king crab in Bristol Bay, which is expected to extend into at least the next season, continued to come into the fishery at the rate they have, it will be basically unmanageable." He noted that for the 1992-1993 season, the Ocean Cape had fished from November until March. "Last year," he said, "we fished for three weeks." He added that ADF&G had expressed doubt that the fishery could be managed in a sustainable fashion if the fleet increased further. "And I think this is the cleanest, simplest way that there is available to allow the number of vessels to be capped," he said, referring to HB 538. Number 1031 MR. BLUE continued, "It also allows that the community of St. Paul has some participation in the fishery." He noted that if licenses went through the normal CFEC process and were awarded to skippers, St. Paul's vessels would have four licenses that qualified, but the community would have nothing out of that. They would still have their share of the boat, but no rights to the fishery or licenses. Number 1059 MR. BLUE expressed it would be nice if the fishery were for small boats. Locals had been out in the early '80s in pioneering efforts to explore the waters around St. Paul for this resource. "Unfortunately, the biology of the crab is such that they are soft shell," he said. "When we were closed in March of '93, it was for soft-shell condition, and when we fished in the summer months and into the beginning of September, the crab were soft. So they're very fragile and with any effort at all, there's grave danger to the resource. So we're looking at what's basically a large-boat fishery. It's going to run no earlier than October for the condition, and the season opener is now November 1st until, at latest, March." He added that the people of St. Paul had told him they supported the moratorium. Number 1131 EARL KRYGIER, Program Manager, Extended Jurisdiction Section, Division of Commercial Fisheries Management and Development, Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), explained he dealt with waters external to the three-mile limit. He pointed out that the bulk of the Korean hair crab stock was located outside state waters, inside what was known as the "EEZ." Number 1170 MR. KRYGIER said, "The problem that you might consider would be whether or not the state should be concerned in management of a fishery in federal waters." Under the Magnuson Act, which had authority over the zone from three to 200 miles offshore in the United States, a state could only expand its authority into federal waters outside the boundaries of the state to those vessels registered under the laws of the state. "So, if you have a state registration," he said, "we can externally manage that vessel's fishing activities." The most important exception to that was when a federal fisheries management plan existed for a fishery, with the bulk of the fishery occurring in federal waters. "Since there is no federal fishery management plan on hair crab," he said, "they're left without any management other than state." Number 1235 MR. KRYGIER explained that neither the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (NPFMC), which set up regulations for the EEZ, nor the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), which implemented those regulations, was interested in bringing the hair crab fishery under their management. The hair crab fishery was small, with 12- 20 vessels at most, and required fairly intensive management. "The state has been managing this fishery since its inception," Mr. Krygier said. He mentioned the "Mr. Big" scallop vessel that fished in the Gulf of Alaska without any regulations and said, "There's kind of a hole in the Magnuson Act that allowed that action to occur and the reason is that that vessel wasn't registered under the laws of the state." Number 1288 MR. KRYGIER continued, "In the Bering Sea, that problem really doesn't exist, and particularly in this fishery, that problem does not exist. Because the vessels need to come to shore to drop off their product and also because they need to support their activities with fuel and crew changes and everything else, they need to use the state's docks and the state's waters to mount their fishing operations. And once they do that, they also need ... to be registered under the laws of the state." He noted that the state was actively working with Senator Stevens to get new wording in the reauthorization language for the Magnuson Act, which should occur in the next few months. That would give the state authority directly to manage fisheries that either were delegated from NPFMC to the state or which did not have a fishery management plan. "In other words, it will clear up the Mr. Big loophole," he said. He added, referring to HB 538, "For those reasons, I think this is probably a reasonable thing for you to consider." Number 1346 CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN asked what ADF&G's position was as to the need for the moratorium. MR. KRYGIER referred to the small size of the fishery. "When there was a lot of activity in that fishery before," he said, "the fishery did collapse. Obviously, if you can have control over the amount of access into a fishery, you don't have the problem of controlling the harvest." He indicated most of the major crab fisheries were currently undergoing very significant and precipitous stock declines, resulting in a lot of crab vessels in the Bering Sea / Aleutian Islands area with little else to do. "The Bristol Bay red crab fishery hasn't opened for two years," he said. "We had a very poor showing of the tanner crab fishery in Bristol Bay this last year; whether that fishery even opens next year ... we'll know after the summer survey. The Opilio stocks, which have been kind of running the fishery for quite awhile, ... are at a much lower level than they've been." Mr. Krygier noted that whereas the Opilio harvest had been almost 300 million pounds a few years earlier, just over 50 million pounds were harvested this year. Number 1433 MR. KRYGIER pointed out that 350 - 400 crab vessels fished in the Bering Sea. "Their main source of income is very restricted right now," he said. "So, they are going to be looking for other things to do. And certainly, from an economic standpoint, it makes a lot of sense for the fleets to protect that. The council itself has passed a license limitation program for the rest of the crab fisheries. So, this is sitting out there with no limitation under it. Because it isn't under a fishery management plan, the council didn't deal with it. But all the rest of the crab fisheries will now have a license limitation program under them. From a biological standpoint, when you get too many people fishing, and people who are forced to fish because of economic reasons, it makes the fishery unmanageable." Number 1484 CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN asked about the collapse that occurred before from overfishing. MR. KRYGIER replied he was not the manager for that fishery and thought it occurred in the mid-1980s. MR. BLUE suggested it was 1984. Number 1509 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS asked about the need to bring hair crabs to a processing site a couple of days after being caught. MR. KRYGIER responded, "My understanding of the fishery, as far as the actual product that they sell in Japan that has the high-value price, is that it comes directly in within a few days and is flown over to Japan whole." REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS clarified he was thinking about what would happen if other fisheries collapsed and someone with a Seattle ship, for instance, wanted to come in. "This will get Alaska- registered ships," he said, "and you think you're catching the problem because they have to come to a local port," requiring them to fall under state regulations. He suggested there might be a loophole there. Number 1576 MR. KRYGIER explained the scenario being described was the "Mr. Big" scenario, fishing directly out of Seattle and not coming into state waters. "The whole Bering Sea crab fishery technically is open to that loophole," he said, "where a vessel could come in and fish anywhere without seasons or limits. Number one, I think the whole fleet has learned very clearly that we will shut the whole waters down, as we did with the scallop fishery - and now, we're stuck and we can't reopen them, and so, everyone is suffering. And even the people who were the bad guys in that situation are trying to get us to reopen the fishery and we can't because they put us in a technical nightmare. So, that's one problem, that's one issue. The second is, the vessels fishing in the Bering Sea, they need support with fuel and crew." He suggested they would have to go back through Seattle to get those. Number 1628 MR. KRYGIER said that third, for vessels fishing in Alaska out of Washington, every insurer of those vessels required them to be registered so the vessels could have access to Alaska ports in the event of a breakdown. "If a vessel went out there and was a bandit and they broke down, if they came into port, we'd seize them. And their insurance companies don't want to have that happen," he said. "So, those kinds of things lead us to believe that we're not going to have those types of problems in the Bering Sea area." Number 1657 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN asked if there had been a precedence for this type of action before, in other fisheries, by the legislature. FRANK HOMAN, Commissioner, Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission (CFEC), stated this was an important piece of legislation. He pointed out CFEC had as a model the Southeast dungeness crab fishery, for which the legislature had instituted a moratorium. During that four-year moratorium, CFEC had worked with the fleet and ADF&G to design a program that CFEC then instituted to limit that fishery last year. "So, the model does work and it has been very successful in including all of the major participants in the fleet," he said. Number 1727 MR. HOMAN discussed aspects of HB 538 that CFEC thought were important. First, it stopped expansion. Under the current limited entry law, CFEC was not able to establish a vessel license program; they only had an individual license program. "So, in the time it would take to come through the legislature with a major piece of legislation," he said, "there would probably be a disaster in that fishery out there if no action was taken to put a moratorium or a restriction on the amount of catch." By this legislation, he explained, the CFEC would be directed to draft a vessel license program during the moratorium. They would work with the fleet and ADF&G and bring it back to the legislature before the moratorium would expire; the new program would therefore be put through the public process. "So, you'd have plenty of opportunity to see this new system take shape over the next few years if this passes," he concluded. Number 1797 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS asked about a fiscal note. MR. HOMAN replied there was a zero fiscal note because the fishery was small and the minor increase in licensing for the moratorium could be absorbed; their best guess was that two to three dozen vessels would be dealt with. If they subsequently designed a vessel limitation program, that would be put in future budgets. Number 1857 WILLIAM ARTERBURN, Executive Vice-President, Pribilof Bering Sea Foods, testified via teleconference from Anchorage, explaining that the company was a subsidiary of a local village corporation, with offices in Anchorage and St. Paul. "We're very supportive of this effort to limit the hair crab fishery," he said. "I think under the conditions that it's probably the only thing to do to maintain a resource out there." However, he wanted to make a case for local participation in the fishery. Number 1899 MR. ARTERBURN mentioned that the Central Bering Sea Fishermen's Association had lobbied the NPFMC for a five-year bottom trawl closure in Area 4C, primarily to protect hair crab and blue king crab resources so that there would be an opportunity of a local fishery out there. That action predated the current fishery by several years, he said. He suggested that in the next four years, the Pribilof community should have the opportunity to introduce a minimum number of vessels into that fishery that would involve some local ownership. "We don't know how or have anything specific to offer at this time," he said, "but we think they should be afforded that opportunity." Number 1959 MR. ARTERBURN referred to AS 16.43.901, which discussed replacement of vessels lost due to sinking or other causes, and recommended that ADF&G adopt the management goal of 12-15 vessels, with re- entries after dropping out, for whatever reason, being limited until the management goal was achieved. "We think this management objective is well justified for conservation purposes," he added. Number 1993 MR. ARTERBURN indicated local St. Paul Island fishermen had a history of experimentation in the hair crab fishery dating back to 1979. While several local vessels had made landings, it was uncertain whether those vessels would be credited. "We think that the department should make extra efforts - and the CFEC - in designing this program to work with the local fishermen and find some ways to afford these local Aleut fishermen out there an opportunity to get involved in this fishery." He further asked that the state work with the local community to set up a shellfish advisory board, as the area was one of the few in the Bering Sea without such a board to advise ADF&G. Mr. Arterburn emphasized the hair crab fishery was local, with local resources in extremely close approximation to the community. "These guys don't have to leave home in order to catch these fish," he said. "They're literally an hour or two off their shores." He reiterated the desire to place a few local vessels in the fisheries over the next several years. Number 2084 LARRY MERCULIEFF, General Manager, Central Bering Sea Fishermen's Association, testified via teleconference from Anchorage, explaining the association, a CDQ organization in Western Alaska, had 200 members including fishermen and their families from St. Paul. He stated support for efforts involving commercially prized fish and crab stocks in the Bering Sea, including the Pribilof hair crab stocks which they believed to be threatened. He discussed the no-trawl zone mentioned in previous testimony and the pioneering of the hair crab fishery in 1979. There had been several local boats, which he listed by name, that had all made landings in that experimental fishery. "And of course, once word got out," he said, "the outside boats came in and overfished the stocks in the early '80s and it crashed." Until the hair crab fishery opened again in 1991, locals had to focus exclusively on the halibut fishery, which was fully capitalized. "We need to expand and we need to focus, since it's a day boat fishery, on resources that are on our doorstep, and hair crab is one of them," he said. Number 2193 ROBERT OWENS, Attorney at Law, Copeland, Landye, Bennett & Wolf, testified via teleconference from Anchorage, on behalf of Scandies Limited Partnership, against HB 538. He referred to earlier mention of the hair crab fishery being fragile and said that in the sense of how the crab need to be handled, there was no dispute in that. However, in the sense of the health of the fishery itself, Mr. Owens asserted that the population was growing, with increased landings. He suggested the analogy of the fishery in the 1980s, when it crashed, failed to take into account that at that time, no guidelines on harvest amounts were imposed. It was an unrestricted fishery then, whereas ADF&G now imposed limits. He said references to overfishing were merely recognizing the theoretical possibility that if a lot of boats entered the fishery, it could become unmanageable by virtue of sheer numbers. "That is not the case today," he said. He thought the special requirements for the fishery made it expensive to enter. "The economics are such that it is not likely to create a land rush type of approach by the other boats in the Bering Sea," he suggested. MR. OWENS said, "In general, this procedure does not follow the recognized procedure that the legislature otherwise set out." He thought there was a risk of denying opportunity "by creating a very exclusive club of people that had participated in this fisheries. Reducing the number to 12 to 14 is a very small number." He only knew of one local boat that had been fishing and said the others were not from that area. "So, it's not going to create opportunity for the local residents," he said. "It closes a fishery and if this model is followed further, it's going to deny the flexibility necessary for crabbers to maintain an economic viability. They need the ability to move around among areas and among species to keep their investments busy. And, therefore, by creating little pigeonholes of investment and development, in the long run, there's a greater likelihood of calamitous financial disaster to those fishermen who are pigeonholed, limited to where they can go and what they can do." REPRESENTATIVE MOSES joined the meeting at 5:55 p.m. Number 2386 LINDA KOZAK, Kodiak Vessel Owners Association, testified via teleconference. She emphasized that although the association had historically been opposed to any form of limited entry and in support of opportunities to diversify in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea, they nonetheless supported HB 538. Number 2407 MS. KOZAK indicated she had been informed by a representative from ADF&G that due to current overcapitalization in the Korean hair crab fishery, any further increase would result in closure of the fishery. Alaskan vessel owners who were members of the association had expressed concern about being left out of a fishery they had helped to pioneer and which they depended on. Members of the association subsequently voted to support any efforts to ensure the hair crab fishery remained viable for Alaskans. The only way they saw to do that was to stop new entry into the fishery. Ms. Kozak indicated the association had 12 vessels that participated in the fishery. They wanted to see the moratorium occur as soon as possible and she emphasized the importance of the July 1, 1996 date. "There are individuals in the Seattle fishing fleet, in particular, which are looking at this fishery," she said, "as it possibly is the only viable fishery remaining in the Bering Sea." TAPE 96-10, SIDE B Number 0007 MS. KOZAK reiterated that while her group had historically opposed limited entry in most forms, at this point in time, they saw there was no other option in this fishery and urged passage of the legislation. Number 0044 PHILLIP LESTENKOF testified via teleconference from St. Paul, saying he was a local small-boat owner. He emphasized that whatever limited entry system was put in place should allow for local residents to be considered and not be left out. Mr. Lestenkof indicated he long-lined for hair crab in 1982 on a 24- foot vessel and also delivered in 1986. He also crewed on a 26- foot boat, running a string of 150 pots. "At that time, our harbor wasn't developed," he said. "The harbor was right in the middle of construction and we always had to pull our boats out," he added, noting that they were also trying to develop a halibut fishery for local boats at that time. "The only economy we have here is right in our back yard," he said, indicating the hair crab were close to shore. "We don't live on a very large island. We don't have any other kind of natural resources like timber or oil or anything else that we can count on to develop a local economy." He expressed there had not been time to really get things going with the hair crab. Mr. Lestenkof reiterated that they did not want to be cut out of the limited entry system and again asked that locals be considered. Number 0218 SIMEON SWETZOF, JR., testified via teleconference from St. Paul, saying he owned a boat, the Wind Dancer. He supported the moratorium only if locals would have an opportunity to participate in the fishery. "It's very difficult to come up with financing to be a participant in it," he said. He expressed that if he could not participate, he wanted for his children to be able to do so. "You all know, we don't fish salmon, we don't do herring," he said, adding that the only thing they fished was halibut. "And we always talk about wanting to participate in other fisheries," he said. "I don't want the doors slammed on this island as far as being a participant in the fisheries around the Pribilofs, the Bering Sea." Number 0301 MYRON MELOVIDOV, Owner/Operator, F/V Aleut Crusader, testified via teleconference from St. Paul that he participated in the experimental fishery in the 1980s. He supported the moratorium but wanted for the door to remain open for local residents to be part of the fishery. Number 0364 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS referred to earlier testimony alleging there was no current need for regulation. He asked, if there was no need, what regulations or laws were in place that allowed the state to act. Number 0398 MR. KRYGIER replied that ADF&G basically managed the fishery through their local area biologist, who kept track of the landed catch. As fishermen brought in the crab, fish tickets were filled out. This provided total harvest and rate, allowing the performance in that fishery to be viewed. Mr. Krygier explained that when the number of participants increased, the ability to predict fishery performance and what was actually occurring in the fishery population became difficult. "You either way overshoot or way undershoot a quota when you have excessive participation," he said, "because there's no way to in-season manage a crab fishery." Number 0463 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN said, "The department does not seem to have a real good track record with anticipating crab stock crashes." He asked Mr. Krygier to relate his perspective on reasons why crab fisheries had come and gone through the years. MR. KRYGIER responded, "That's a loaded question." He indicated that crab fisheries were difficult to predict as far as upswings and downswings. "A lot of it has to do with oceanographic conditions and recruitment," he said. "Whereas you'll have a spawning event year after year, it's how successful is the progeny to make it in to the proper habitat and then grow through the successive early age classes, so that it can recruit to the harvestable portion of the population. And a lot of that has to do with oceanographic conditions." He added, "The other factor is that in previous years, we really didn't manage as conservatively as we should have. We now recognize that a lot of the management strategies that we had in past years were probably incorrect and probably had some effect on allowing overharvest to occur. The department is becoming more and more conservative in its management approach to any crab management, because those stocks are so volatile in their ability just to survive the normal recruitment events." Number 0557 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN asked if fish politics had anything to do with it. MR. KRYGIER asked for clarification. REPRESENTATIVE OGAN expressed discouragement at "the urge to fish today and to heck with tomorrow because we'll make the bucks now, and then there we are, we don't have a fishery." REPRESENTATIVE CARL MOSES suggested that the situation as Mr. Krygier had explained it, regarding crab management, was the same for pretty much all the fisheries, with too many boats chasing too few fish. Number 0620 MR. KRYGIER agreed. "It's certainly difficult to manage any resource when the amount of capacity is so large that the ... time it takes in which the fishery occurs is shorter and shorter," he said, "because it doesn't allow you to get the in-season assessment of fishery performance." He added that for almost all of the stocks, ADF&G was underfunded in its ability to get out and assess those stocks. They had a pre-season estimate of the resource, but without the in-season fishery performance, they could not really determine whether the pre-season guess was correct and adequate to reflect the actual health of that resource. MR. KRYGIER continued, "In the Bering Sea, we take one trawl sample every 400 square miles to make our population estimates. And over a number of years, as we crisscross the Bering Sea and every 400 square miles take one little sample, we get a picture of what that is in relationship to the size and the health of that particular stock. But it's only a guess. And it's that in-season harvest that goes on and how fast that goes in relationship to the number of participants that allows us to say, `yes, this is a good pre- season guess' or `no, it's a bad pre-season guess.' And if it's a bad one, we'll stop the fishery and close it off early." Number 0698 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON referred to testimony that the optimum fleet size for the hair crab fishery should be 12-15, which was significantly lower than would result under HB 538. He asked whether Mr. Krygier agreed with the 12-15 figure. MR. KRYGIER replied that he was not the manager of that fishery and did not know the fishery well enough to answer the question. REPRESENTATIVE ELTON referred to the local, small-boat fleet and asked, "Do you manage fisheries now where you have -- if the quota, say, is 1.8 million pounds -- where `x' number of pounds are for a small-boat fishery or local fishery and `x' number of pounds for a large-boat fishery?" Number 0750 MR. KRYGIER replied, "I believe that if the Board of Fisheries wanted to develop a fishery management plan which would set aside a portion of the harvest for various size[s] of vessels, they could do that." Number 0766 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS asked if the legislature could, constitutionally, mandate and legislate local support or preference. MR. KRYGIER responded that was a little out of his field. He then explained that in the NPFMC process, "they have the ability to set up, by vessel size categories, certain types of allocations." He added, "I believe that the board can probably also, by certain size of vessel category, probably do some allocations within that. That's my guess. I'm not an expert on that." Number 0815 CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN said, "I think there's been enough questions raised here that we don't have answers to that we may want to hold this bill for a few days and then come back to it." He expressed that he desired to see the bill move on but wanted to address those questions. REPRESENTATIVE MOSES said, "One of my concerns is, if you're talking about 15 100-foot boats, it's probably a fishery that would support maybe 30 or 40 50-foot boats. So that's hard to stipulate how many boats." REPRESENTATIVE ELTON asked what other committees of referral there were for the bill. CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN responded, "This is the only committee." He added, "I guess that's one of the reasons I'm kind of hesitant to moving it out tonight, because it is the first hearing we've had on it. This is the only committee of referral to this. And there have been a number of questions raised here that maybe some of the members don't feel comfortable with yet." Number 0873 MR. HOMAN stated, "I know there were a number of questions raised about how things might work. And what the legislation directs the commission to do during the period of the moratorium is to develop a piece of draft legislation that would come to the legislature. And in the development of that draft, we would solicit information from the local people and those participating in the fleet. And then once the legislation was developed ... it would go through the legislative process, where you would have public input. And then, if that was successful, it would still go through another stage; when the commission would develop regulations, they would also go back to the public for comment." Number 0941 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS noted that it would be a moratorium for four years. CHAIRMAN AUSTERMAN said, "It does have a sunset on it." With concurrence of the members, he left the bill in committee.