Legislature(2003 - 2004)

05/16/2003 07:48 AM House FSH

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 309-PROHIBIT RELEASE OF PREDATORY FISH                                                                                     
CHAIR SEATON announced  that the next order of  business would be                                                               
HOUSE  BILL  NO.   309,  "An  Act  prohibiting   the  release  of                                                               
nonindigenous predatory fish into public water."                                                                                
CHAIR SEATON  said discussion would  be begin  on HB 309  until a                                                               
quorum was present.                                                                                                             
Number 0903                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KELLY  WOLF, Alaska State Legislature,  sponsor of                                                               
HB  309,  testified  that  the  bill would  make  it  illegal  to                                                               
transport predatory game fish and  would increase that offense to                                                               
a felony.   He  said that  Alaska currently  considers this  as a                                                               
misdemeanor unless  a permit is  issued by the  Alaska Department                                                               
of  Fish  &  Game  (ADF&G).    He  told  the  committee  that  in                                                               
Southcentral Alaska,  through the means of  "bucket biology," the                                                               
transportation of northern pike,  a nonindigenous, predatory fish                                                               
has  been  expanding  through  the fresh  water  systems.    This                                                               
expansion jeopardizes different  indigenous species of anadromous                                                               
fish such as  trout, coho salmon, and king salmon.   He said that                                                               
the only  way to  eliminate northern  pike is  to use  a chemical                                                               
poison,  and  the  poison  also kills  everything  in  the  water                                                               
system.    He  cited  the  example  of  Davis  Lake  in  northern                                                               
California, where it cost the state  a lot of money to poison the                                                               
lake in order to kill off northern pike.                                                                                        
Number 1178                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE WOLF continued that  some individuals wish to have                                                               
this predatory sport fish expand  into the Kenai Peninsula and up                                                               
into [Matanuska-Susitna] valley.   While in some  parts of Alaska                                                               
the fish  is an indigenous  species, this  isn't the case  in the                                                               
Kenai  Peninsula, considering  the watershed  and make-up  of the                                                               
ecosystem.   Another  issue is  that within  the last  two years,                                                               
yellow  perch,  which  he  doesn't  think  are  indigenous,  were                                                               
transported and  stocked in  a lake by  means of  bucket biology.                                                               
The issue is that individuals  should not be changing the state's                                                               
ecosystem and endangering  the economy or ecology  of the region,                                                               
he stated.                                                                                                                      
CHAIR  SEATON  clarified that  the  discussion  pertained to  the                                                               
proposed CS [Version I, 23-LS1097\I, Utermohle, 5/9/03].                                                                        
Number 1379                                                                                                                     
CHAIR SEATON  announced that  there was now  a quorum  present in                                                               
committee,  and  that  there was  a  motion  from  Representative                                                               
Wilson to put  the proposed CS for HB 309,  Version I, before the                                                               
committee.  [No  objection was stated, and Version  I was treated                                                               
as adopted.]                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON asked if the term "game fish" was being used.                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  WOLF responded  that he  did not  object to  that                                                               
usage,  noting   that  the  expanded  definition   would  not  be                                                               
inclusive of tropical fish.                                                                                                     
Number 1473                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE OGG  surmised that on page  1, lines 1, 4,  6, and                                                               
7, "game" would be inserted.                                                                                                    
CHAIR   SEATON   acknowledged   the  foregoing   as   [Conceptual                                                               
Amendment 1].  He asked if there  was any objection.  There being                                                               
no objection, Conceptual Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                               
Number 1543                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  WOLF  acknowledged that  from  a  court of  law's                                                               
perspective, there was concern regarding  the ambiguous aspect of                                                               
"nonindigenous."   He suggested  that perhaps  "nonindigenous" be                                                               
struck from the title.                                                                                                          
Number 1678                                                                                                                     
LANCE  NELSON,  Assistant  Attorney  General,  Natural  Resources                                                               
Section,   Civil  Division   (Anchorage),   Department  of   Law,                                                               
testified that  an element of  the crime  is that a  person would                                                               
have  to knowingly  release live,  nonindigenous, predatory  fish                                                               
into  a body  of fresh  water.   It  could be  argued by  defense                                                               
counsel that  the state has the  burden of proof to  show that no                                                               
fish  of that  species  has ever  been present  in  that body  of                                                               
water;  he said  this might  be a  difficult task  and burden  to                                                               
Number 1775                                                                                                                     
CHAIR SEATON mentioned that perhaps  the House Judiciary Standing                                                               
Committee could address a number of these legal issues.                                                                         
Number 1798                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  SAMUELS said,  "Generally speaking,  if you  just                                                               
said 'pike' you'd take care of 99 percent of the problem."                                                                      
Number 1816                                                                                                                     
KELLY   HEPLER,  Director,   Division  of   Sport  Fish,   Alaska                                                               
Department  of Fish  & Game  (ADF&G), said  that just  mentioning                                                               
"pike" wouldn't be  sufficient because other fish  such as yellow                                                               
perch  have also  been introduced;  the  bill needs  to be  broad                                                               
enough to include other fish as well.                                                                                           
CHAIR  SEATON  voiced  his  concern   regarding  the  removal  of                                                               
"nonindigenous".   He  pointed out  that Representative  Wolf was                                                               
referring to non-native  fish and said, "We're  not talking about                                                               
salmon eggs that are [moved] from one pond to the next."                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  WOLF   replied  that  "nonindigenous"   could  be                                                               
defined within the bill.  He said  he would like to move the bill                                                               
to the House Resources Standing  Committee and told the committee                                                               
that  during  the  interim  he  would commit  to  work  with  the                                                               
Department of Law (DOL) on HB 309.                                                                                              
CHAIR SEATON asked  the committee if "amend" should  be placed on                                                               
the bill  [report] as well  as the  inclusion of a  definition of                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  OGG  questioned making  this  offense  a class  C                                                               
felony.  He  gave the example of a fish  farm in Washington State                                                               
containing  Atlantic salmon  or other  forms of  salmon in  which                                                               
fish leave the  pens and swim into Alaskan waters.   He said that                                                               
it was foreseeable that fish could  swim up the streams, and that                                                               
under  this  statute, a  state  of  Washington citizen  could  be                                                               
CHAIR SEATON  clarified that  this would need  to be  a "knowing"                                                               
release into a body of fresh public water.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE OGG agreed that a  person might know that the fish                                                               
would eventually arrive [at that destination].                                                                                  
CHAIR SEATON said that fish  traveling through the salt water and                                                               
the  ocean differed  from fish  being released  knowingly into  a                                                               
body of fresh water.                                                                                                            
Number 2121                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE OGG asked, if fish  were released into one body of                                                               
water with the knowledge that  those fish might eventually end up                                                               
in another body of water, "What's the difference?"                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE WOLF said the bill  was written such that a person                                                               
may not "knowingly release, or  knowingly transport for release",                                                               
which is  similar to carrying  that fish to Alaska  and releasing                                                               
it into fresh  public water.  He stated that  if fish escape from                                                               
a  pen, swim  through  salt  water, and  eventually  spawn in  an                                                               
Alaskan river, that's different altogether.                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  OGG cautioned  that there  should be  not be  any                                                               
ambiguity, given  that a  class C  felony might  be placed  on an                                                               
Number 2206                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE WOLF  said that  one reason a  class C  felony was                                                               
chosen  was because  the poisoning  of  Davis Lake  had cost  the                                                               
[U.S.  Fish & Wildlife  Service] and the California Department of                                                               
Fish and  Game about $1.7 million.   He said that  because of the                                                               
actions  of  one  individual  or one  small  group,  the  state's                                                               
resources could end up being spent.                                                                                             
Number 2263                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  asked what the  penalty was for a  class C                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS  responded that  the penalty  involved 364                                                               
days for a misdemeanor and 365 days for a felony.                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE   OGG  commented   that   he  wasn't   necessarily                                                               
suggesting  that  the felony  be  lowered  to a  misdemeanor  but                                                               
rather, if this was going to be  a class C felony crime, then the                                                               
language needed to be very tight.                                                                                               
CHAIR SEATON  asked if using  the language "directly into  a body                                                               
of  fresh  water"  would  satisfy  Representative  Ogg's  concern                                                               
regarding ocean migration.                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  OGG  replied  that   he  would  prefer  that  the                                                               
language be  reviewed by  the attorney  general's office  and the                                                               
ADF&G to make sure that it's tight.                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE WOLF said that he  had already made the commitment                                                               
to work with the ADF&G and DOL during the interim.                                                                              
Number 2366                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON told  the  committee that  since the  bill                                                               
isn't currently going  anywhere, she would prefer that  HB 309 be                                                               
heard by  the House Special  Committee on Fisheries  this January                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE WOLF  said he would like  to see the bill  move to                                                               
the House Resources Standing Committee.                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON repeated  her  suggestion  that the  House                                                               
Special Committee on  Fisheries review the bill  at the beginning                                                               
of next session.                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  OGG said  he agreed  with Representative  Wilson.                                                               
He stated  that this was  clearly a  fisheries issue and  that he                                                               
would prefer sending on a bill that had been worked through.                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS stated that  he agreed with Representative                                                               
The committee took an at-ease from 8:25 to 8:28 a.m.                                                                            
Number 2460                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  SEATON said  that CSHB  309 would  be held  over and  that                                                               
during  the  interim  the [departments]  and  the  sponsor  would                                                               
continue to work on the bill.   A definition of nonindigenous was                                                               
needed  and  a tightening  of  the  language  in order  to  avoid                                                               
unintended consequences.   He said  that HB  309 would be  one of                                                               
the first orders of business next year.  [HB 309 was held over.]                                                                

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