Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/16/2003 09:12 AM House FSH

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SJR 12-SUPPORTING HALIBUT BYCATCH PROJECT                                                                                     
CHAIR SEATON announced that the only order of business would be                                                                 
CS FOR SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 12(RES), Supporting the                                                                      
halibut   bycatch  utilization   project  of   the  Alaska   Food                                                               
Number 0083                                                                                                                     
SENATOR  GARY  STEVENS,  Alaska  State  Legislature,  sponsor  of                                                               
SJR 12, said  the resolution was  a result of  concerns expressed                                                               
by the "Alaska Food Bank."   The legislation demonstrates support                                                               
of  the  halibut  bycatch  project devised  by  the  Alaska  Food                                                               
Coalition.  He noted that the  Alaska Food Coalition does a great                                                               
job  of providing  food  for people  in the  state  who are  less                                                               
fortunate  and who  need assistance.   Senator  Stevens mentioned                                                               
that  fishermen who  operate trawl  vessels are  not allowed,  by                                                               
federal law,  to keep "accidentally  caught halibut" and  have to                                                               
throw  that halibut  overboard.   He  said fishermen  as well  as                                                               
processors  are  willing to  voluntarily  devote  their time  and                                                               
effort to  handle and  process otherwise  unused halibut  to make                                                               
use  of it  for charitable  purposes.   He said  the Alaska  Food                                                               
Coalition has  developed a  plan and has  the funds  available to                                                               
distribute the product throughout the state.                                                                                    
Number 0232                                                                                                                     
SENATOR GARY STEVENS  informed the committee that  if passed, SJR
12 would go  to the North Pacific Fishery  Management Council and                                                               
also to National  Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)  to support the                                                               
issuance of  a Prohibited Species  Donation Permit to  begin this                                                               
project of using  halibut bycatch.  He clarified  that this would                                                               
not be  used on vessels  without observers, thereby  avoiding the                                                               
possibility  of catching  more halibut  than necessary.   Senator                                                               
Stevens said that what was remarkable  about SJR 12 was that both                                                               
fishermen  and processors  have volunteered  to participate  in a                                                               
project that  allows the product to  be used by people  in Alaska                                                               
who need it.                                                                                                                    
Number 0369                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON inquired  about the  projected numbers  of                                                               
fish involved in the project.                                                                                                   
SENATOR GARY STEVENS responded that  Trevor Jones would better be                                                               
able to  answer that  question, but said  he assumed  the project                                                               
would start out slowly to make  sure that the system was working.                                                               
He  said that  food banks  throughout  the state  are anxious  to                                                               
access the  program and  he referenced a  similar program  in the                                                               
Seattle area in  which a permit is used that  pertains to halibut                                                               
from the Bering Sea.                                                                                                            
Number 0430                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  asked how  often, after  catching halibut,                                                               
fishermen on boats need to throw the fish back.                                                                                 
SENATOR  GARY STEVENS  confirmed that  fishermen catch  a lot  of                                                               
halibut by mistake  and that there are bycatch  numbers, but said                                                               
he didn't have that statistic.                                                                                                  
Number 0478                                                                                                                     
CHAIR SEATON offered  that in the Gulf of Alaska,  he thought the                                                               
amount was 750 metric tons.   He then asked the sponsor what time                                                               
period  would be  involved,  wondering if  the  project would  be                                                               
year-round or would involve a specific window of time.                                                                          
SENATOR  GARY  STEVENS  said  the  permit  offered  by  NMFS  has                                                               
specific requirements  regarding time  elements and amounts.   He                                                               
suggested that  the project would  involve a small  percentage of                                                               
the  large amount  of  halibut bycatch  and that  it  would be  a                                                               
reflection  of  the  Alaska Food  Coalition's  needs  within  the                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  HEINZE asked  if it  was  known how  much of  the                                                               
halibut bycatch is dead.                                                                                                        
SENATOR  GARY STEVENS  responded that  if the  halibut are  dead,                                                               
this utilization project offers  an alternative to just disposing                                                               
of the  fish, and that  perhaps if  the halibut were  alive, they                                                               
would be thrown  overboard.  He reiterated that this  would be an                                                               
opportunity to utilize just some, not all, of the dead halibut.                                                                 
Number 0614                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  SEATON explained  that there  is a  requirement that  live                                                               
halibut  are to  be discarded;  the  halibut are  sorted and  put                                                               
overboard quickly.   The amount of 750 metric tons  refers to the                                                               
estimated mortality  - the amount of  dead halibut - and  not the                                                               
total amount of halibut caught.  He  said that when he was at the                                                               
[North  Pacific   Fishery  Management  Council],  there   was  an                                                               
estimated 15  to 17 percent mortality  of longline-caught halibut                                                               
and  an estimated  80 to  85 percent  mortality of   trawl-caught                                                               
halibut.    He  said  his  understanding is  that  SJR  12  deals                                                               
specifically  with  trawl-caught  halibut.   He  added  that  the                                                               
assumption used  to be  a 100 percent  mortality rate,  but after                                                               
further study  it was found that  15 to 20 percent  of the trawl-                                                               
caught halibut did survive.                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE  wondered if it was  traumatic for halibut,                                                               
since they were caught at such  depths, to be brought all the way                                                               
up to the surface and then be thrown back overboard.                                                                            
Number 0743                                                                                                                     
CHAIR SEATON  commented that halibut  don't have a  swim bladder,                                                               
so  that unlike  rockfish, if  they are  brought up  too quickly,                                                               
their  bladders don't  expand and  they are  not injured  in that                                                               
particular way.  He suggested that  one way fish are injured in a                                                               
trawl  fishery is  that when  the trawl  net is  swept along  the                                                               
bottom, either  in shallow water  flats or deep water  flats, the                                                               
fish accumulate - perhaps 50 or 40  tons - and there is a mass of                                                               
fish  in the  back of  the trawl.   He  explained that  the water                                                               
circulation isn't good and depending  upon the length of the tow,                                                               
the fish can be basically  "drowned" because of being packed into                                                               
the back edge, also  called the cod end of the  net.  He repeated                                                               
that  the fish  are  almost  squeezing out  of  the  net, and  if                                                               
halibut are  stuck there,  there is  not good  water circulation,                                                               
they are  packed in, and  by the time  they are pulled  out [they                                                               
are dead].                                                                                                                      
Number 0820                                                                                                                     
CHAIR SEATON continued that there  are restrictions on the length                                                               
of  tows in  attempts to  reduce halibut  bycatch, but  there are                                                               
still halibut that  will die.  The requirement  is to immediately                                                               
discharge "live  and kicking"  halibut.  In  the Gulf  of Alaska,                                                               
depending on the fishery, there  is a question regarding the size                                                               
of the halibut; the average size can  be 2 1/2 pounds, with a lot                                                               
of small  as well as  large halibut mixed  in with flounder.   He                                                               
said  he doubted  that  this  aspect would  be  addressed in  the                                                               
permit, but thought it would  be addressed by processors because,                                                               
if  flounder were  being processed  at  the same  time, the  size                                                               
would be consistent.                                                                                                            
Number 0898                                                                                                                     
SENATOR  GARY  STEVENS  reiterated  that  this  was  a  volunteer                                                               
operation  and  that  the  processors were  willing  to  spend  a                                                               
minimal amount of time on gutting and freezing.                                                                                 
Number 0932                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  wondered how the processors  would work on                                                               
the details,  suggesting that perhaps  a certain day of  the week                                                               
would be set aside.                                                                                                             
SENATOR GARY STEVENS  responded that this would  be controlled by                                                               
CHAIR SEATON  added that under  the permit, the question  of "how                                                               
much can  be taken  and brought  in" would be  need to  be agreed                                                               
upon  because SJR  12 allows  for the  right to  have halibut  on                                                               
board if it is being  delivered to a committed halibut processor.                                                               
He said the intent of this  specific permit was to make sure that                                                               
the retained halibut are sequenced through this permit.                                                                         
Number 1019                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  SEATON  stated that  one  problem  with  SJR 12  was  that                                                               
originally  the  indication was  that  this  could be  done  from                                                               
unobserved vessels.  He said  he'd conferred with the sponsor and                                                               
wanted to suggest a verbal amendment as follows:                                                                                
     On page 2,  line 7, delete the sentence  after the word                                                                    
     "the"  and insert  "issuance  of  a Prohibited  Species                                                                    
     Donation  Permit  using  halibut bycatch  from  vessels                                                                    
     with observers".                                                                                                           
Number 1113                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  HEINZE   [moved  to   adopt]  the   foregoing  as                                                               
Amendment 1.                                                                                                                    
Number 1171                                                                                                                     
CHAIR SEATON  explained that Amendment  1 ensures  that illegally                                                               
caught halibut will  not be allowed on board.   He mentioned what                                                               
is called  "whole haul" as  an example  in which fish  are caught                                                               
and dumped into the fish  hold without sorting for halibut, which                                                               
is legally required.                                                                                                            
Number 1216                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON  objected  to   Amendment  1  because  she                                                               
wanted to know Senator Gary Stevens' opinion.                                                                                   
SENATOR  STEVENS   responded  that  Amendment  1   clarifies  the                                                               
resolution, saying  that he  would be  pleased to  add it  to the                                                               
Number 1260                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON withdrew her objection.                                                                                   
CHAIR SEATON  asked if  there was any  further objection.   There                                                               
being no objection, Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                                    
Number 1294                                                                                                                     
TREVOR  JONES,   Chair,  Alaska  Food  Coalition,   said  he  was                                                               
available to answer  questions, and said that  as coordinator for                                                               
the project,  he wanted to  commend fishermen and  processors for                                                               
their willingness to participate.                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON  asked how  the  plan  would proceed;  she                                                               
wondered if the fish would be  fresh or frozen and what timelines                                                               
were being considered.                                                                                                          
Number 1366                                                                                                                     
MR.  JONES  responded  that  there  was  an  agreement  with  the                                                               
processors that the halibut would  be headed, gutted, frozen, and                                                               
then stored until  there was a shipment ready to  go to a network                                                               
of  food banks.   He  mentioned that  the "Food  Bank of  Alaska"                                                               
would be  involved with  getting shipments  to various  places in                                                               
the  state such  as Nome,  Barrow,  Juneau, and  "to about  every                                                               
community in the state."                                                                                                        
Number 1416                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  SEATON commented  that it  was great  to have  the product                                                               
going  to food  banks  in  Alaska rather  than  having  it go  to                                                               
Seattle.  He then asked if a "size range" had been investigated.                                                                
MR. JONES  replied that  consideration was  being given  to begin                                                               
with 18-inch fish, but added that  it would be kept "a little bit                                                               
open"  to allow  for  experimentation regarding  what would  work                                                               
best and also to avoid bringing  fish back to shore that couldn't                                                               
be utilized.   He said  that starting  at the 18-inch  mark would                                                               
allow  for  a reasonable  return,  considering  the efforts  that                                                               
would have to go into the fish.                                                                                                 
CHAIR  SEATON asked  if the  intent was  that the  fish would  be                                                               
frozen whole, headed and gutted, or  if a fillet machine would be                                                               
MR.  JONES  responded  that  consideration  was  being  given  to                                                               
eventually  filleting  the halibut,  skin  on,  and also  perhaps                                                               
moving  toward shatter  packs  or  to [individually  quick-frozen                                                               
fish]  to  reduce packaging  size  for  the convenience  of  food                                                               
banks,  which  may  operate  with  a  limited  infrastructure  of                                                               
CHAIR SEATON  commended Mr. Jones  and the Alaska  Food Coalition                                                               
for work that has been done on the project.                                                                                     
Number 1550                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON moved to report  CSSJR 12(RES), as amended,                                                               
out  of   committee  with  individual  recommendations   and  the                                                               
accompanying fiscal  note.  There  being no objection,  HCS CSSJR
12(FSH)  was  reported  from  the   House  Special  Committee  on                                                               

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