Legislature(2003 - 2004)

02/09/2004 09:02 AM House FSH

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 409-SEINE VESSEL LENGTH                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON announced that the  final order of business would be                                                               
HOUSE BILL  NO. 409, "An  Act relating  to the maximum  length of                                                               
salmon seine vessels; and providing for an effective date."                                                                     
Number 2925                                                                                                                     
TIM BARRY,  Staff to Representative  William K.  Williams, Alaska                                                               
State Legislature, introduced HB  409 on behalf of Representative                                                               
Williams,  sponsor by  request of  the  Joint Legislative  Salmon                                                               
Industry  Task Force.   Mr.  Barry  explained that  the bill  was                                                               
discussed in the "production subcommittee"  and by the task force                                                               
as  a  whole  to  give  the  [Board  of  Fisheries]  and  Alaskan                                                               
fishermen another  tool to  diversify and  increase the  value of                                                               
their products.                                                                                                                 
MR. BARRY  emphasized that  this bill  doesn't eliminate  the 58-                                                               
foot  length limit  on salmon  seiners.   He  said as  far as  he                                                               
knows,  this  is the  only  commercial  boat limit  enshrined  in                                                               
statute.   The  Board of  Fisheries  has authority  to impose  or                                                               
change length  or gear  limits on commercial  fishing boats.   If                                                               
the  bill became  law,  the  Board of  Fisheries  would still  go                                                               
through the public process before  changing the length limit.  He                                                               
pointed out  that HB 409  says at least  66 percent of  the entry                                                               
permit holders must favor the adoption of the regulation.                                                                       
TAPE 04-4, SIDE B                                                                                                             
Number 2998                                                                                                                     
MR.  BARRY referred  to  an opinion  from  Legislative Legal  and                                                               
Research Services  written by George  Utermohle that says  the 66                                                               
percent  vote requirement  might  be unconstitutional.   He  also                                                               
brought  attention  to  the  zero fiscal  note  from  the  Alaska                                                               
Department of Fish  & Game (ADF&G).  Noting that  HB 409 says the                                                               
Board of Fisheries  would conduct the vote of  permit holders, he                                                               
said he'd  like Mr.  Mecum [from ADF&G]  to address  the possible                                                               
extra expense to conduct a referendum.                                                                                          
Number 2947                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG asked about  the history of the 58-foot                                                               
length requirement.                                                                                                             
MR. BARRY  said he didn't know  the entire history, but  had been                                                               
told it predated statehood.                                                                                                     
CHAIR SEATON added that it was a long and bitter history.                                                                       
Number 2865                                                                                                                     
DOUG MECUM,  Director, Division  of Commercial  Fisheries, Alaska                                                               
Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G), testified as follows:                                                                        
     With regard  to the 58-foot  limit, if there  were any,                                                                    
     say,   fishery   management  or   conservation   issues                                                                    
     associated  with   repealing  that  by  the   Board  of                                                                    
     Fisheries,  I guess  we feel  like we  could adequately                                                                    
     address those  through that public process.   The other                                                                    
     issues  associated  with  it are  really  socioeconomic                                                                    
     issues, allocation issues, and,  of course, that's what                                                                    
     the board deals  with all the time.  So,  we don't have                                                                    
     any issues with that part of the bill.                                                                                     
MR.  MECUM  reported that  ADF&G  submitted  a zero  fiscal  note                                                               
because it  didn't know whether there  would ever be a  cost.  He                                                               
said there  were only five  or six  seine fisheries in  the state                                                               
that meet every three years, and it would entail a minimal cost.                                                                
Number 2816                                                                                                                     
MR. MECUM wondered,  from a process standpoint,  if "a regulation                                                               
adopted by  the board  to authorize  the use  of a  vessel" would                                                               
become valid  only after the  vote took place.   He said  the way                                                               
the Board of Fisheries works  now, the proposal gets submitted by                                                               
the public or by the department,  and then the board considers it                                                               
and  goes through  the  Administrative Procedure  Act.   If  [the                                                               
board]  adopts  the  regulation,  it  is  drafted  by  ADF&G  and                                                               
submitted  to the  Department  of Law,  which  makes changes  and                                                               
sends it  to the  lieutenant governor  for signature;  it becomes                                                               
law 30 days later.                                                                                                              
MR. MECUM  said it is a  unique situation whereby the  board goes                                                               
through the public  process; if [the regulation]  is adopted into                                                               
law, it  then can be  invalidated by a vote.   He felt  that [the                                                               
invalidation process]  might be the issue  [Legislative Legal and                                                               
Research Services] is raising, as well.                                                                                         
Number 2761                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  asked Mr.  Mecum to explain  the reasoning                                                               
behind the 66 percent vote requirement.                                                                                         
MR. MECUM replied  that it was a longstanding  provision and that                                                               
there are a lot  of fishing regulations tied to it.   He said the                                                               
board  used  the  [66  percent]   limit  to  create  slower-paced                                                               
fisheries.   He opined that  the concern involves  the allocation                                                               
issues, and offered an example:                                                                                                 
     If there were  400 seiners and only  about 200-220 were                                                                    
     actively  fishing,   and  the  board   was  considering                                                                    
     repealing  [an authorization  to  use  a vessel  longer                                                                    
     than  58  feet],  there would  be  concerns  from  some                                                                    
     members  of  the  fleet about  people  coming  in  with                                                                    
     bigger boats.   You  could have a  permit and  no boat,                                                                    
     and  then  you could  just  fish  your permit  on  that                                                                    
     larger boat, some boat from outside or inside Alaska.                                                                      
MR. MECUM  said he thinks  fishermen are  torn on this  issue and                                                               
concerned  about their  ability to  compete.   He added  that the                                                               
task force wanted a supermajority  of [permit holders] to support                                                               
Number 2661                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON  asked  whether   it  is  typical  that  a                                                               
fisherman  might want  to do  something on  board that  is value-                                                               
added like [adding a] freezer, but lack the room.                                                                               
MR. MECUM  answered in the  affirmative, adding that  having more                                                               
room is  one impetus suggested  by [fishermen].  He  said another                                                               
forthcoming bill  dealt with the  idea of fishermen's  ability to                                                               
"do   something  more   with  the   fish"  such   as  value-added                                                               
Number 2599                                                                                                                     
CHAIR SEATON suggested the length could  be 90 feet or longer for                                                               
volume processing, not just an increase [to] 65 feet or so.                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE   SAMUELS   asked   if  there   were   also   gear                                                               
restrictions included in the 58-foot limitation.                                                                                
MR. MECUM replied  in the affirmative.  He said  the [increase in                                                               
boat length]  doesn't require  a change  in the  size of  the net                                                               
used.   He  mentioned remote  fisheries in  the Aleutians,  False                                                               
Pass, Southeast  Alaska, and  Kodiak that are  catching a  lot of                                                               
fish  and having  to offload  them to  a tender.   With  a larger                                                               
vessel, they  wouldn't have  to offload  because they  could pack                                                               
more  fish.     He  reiterated  that   concerns  with  particular                                                               
fisheries could be dealt with by the Board of Fisheries process.                                                                
Number 2477                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  OGG mentioned  that the  Bristol Bay  fishery was                                                               
currently  under  regulation for  32-foot  [vessels].   He  asked                                                               
about  the   history,  including  whether  there   had  been  any                                                               
proposals  to  make  changes,  and  what,  if  any,  impacts  the                                                               
proposals had.                                                                                                                  
MR. MECUM said it was a  good question; many times over the years                                                               
people  have  proposed changes  to  the  vessel length  limit  in                                                               
Bristol  Bay, as  recently as  a few  months ago.   The  Board of                                                               
Fisheries rejected those proposals.                                                                                             
Number 2422                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  OGG asked  about the  conservative nature  of the                                                               
board's response to the proposals.                                                                                              
MR. MECUM  said he believes  it relates to  socioeconomic issues,                                                               
the allocation issues, where local  people don't have the capital                                                               
to invest in a larger boat or have just bought a new boat.                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  OGG wondered  about  comments from  the board  on                                                               
other gear types, supportive or not.                                                                                            
MR.  MECUM asked  if Representative  Ogg was  still asking  about                                                               
Bristol Bay.                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE OGG said yes.                                                                                                    
MR. MECUM mentioned  setnets and driftnets, but  said he couldn't                                                               
remember the various comments from the board members.                                                                           
Number 2325                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  asked if  gillnetters and trollers  had no                                                               
limit on boat lengths.                                                                                                          
MR.  MECUM said  that was  correct.   Noting that  Mr. Barry  had                                                               
given  a good  summary, he  said  there are  other vessel  length                                                               
limits  such as  in the  scallop fisheries,  but no  limits other                                                               
than practical  limits on  gillnetters and  trollers, or  even on                                                               
CHAIR  SEATON mentioned  tuna  seiners in  the  140- to  160-foot                                                               
range in Alaska years ago that were tendering, but not seining.                                                                 
MR.  MECUM,  in  response  to   a  question  from  Representative                                                               
Samuels,  said, "There  are  a variety  of  vessel length  limits                                                               
scattered throughout the regulations  for different purposes, but                                                               
this is the only one, that I'm aware of, that's in statutes."                                                                   
Number 2181                                                                                                                     
GERALD  McCUNE, Lobbyist  for United  Fishermen of  Alaska (UFA),                                                               
said originally his  agency supported HB 109, but  there was some                                                               
confusion:   some thought every  permit holder would  vote, while                                                               
others thought  just seiners would  vote.  He said  fishermen who                                                               
own  two  different-sized boats  who  want  to consolidate  their                                                               
operations and  save money have  been trying to make  this change                                                               
for a long time.   He explained that he doesn't  see a big change                                                               
with this  bill because some  fishermen are locked into  the size                                                               
of their boats.   Suggesting that getting seiners  together for a                                                               
vote may  be a  problem, he  remarked, "A lot  of guys  in Prince                                                               
William  Sound  don't  want  it."    He  closed  by  saying  some                                                               
fishermen would  prefer that a  public hearing with the  Board of                                                               
Fisheries take the place of voting.                                                                                             
Number 2047                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON asked if 66 percent is a realistic number.                                                                
MR. McCUNE  replied that many  people are comforted  knowing that                                                               
most of the [boat owners] in  the area support this change.  Some                                                               
people  think votes  shouldn't be  taken to  change statute,  and                                                               
others  think  it shouldn't  be  in  statute,  but should  be  in                                                               
regulation.  He added that  he's still awaiting the [UFA] board's                                                               
decision on whether to proceed with a vote.                                                                                     
CHAIR SEATON asked if there  was any controversy within the [UAF]                                                               
board about decreased value of  58-foot boats if Canadian ex-drum                                                               
seiners are brought into the U.S. market.                                                                                       
MR. McCUNE  said there  was some concern,  but drums  couldn't be                                                               
used,  even if  the 58-foot  limit were  changed.   He reiterated                                                               
that he didn't predict a big change due to this bill.                                                                           
Number 1857                                                                                                                     
CHAIR SEATON asked if it  was Mr. McCune's understanding that the                                                               
purpose of the bill was to allow seiners to haul more fish.                                                                     
MR. McCUNE  replied that if the  only reason for the  bill was to                                                               
increase  the volume  [of fish],  that would  be a  poor business                                                               
plan because  most seiners operate  under limits,  especially for                                                               
pink salmon,  and so  a bigger boat  won't solve  their problems.                                                               
Many would  like to  process on  board and  need a  bigger vessel                                                               
because  fish,  once  cleaned,  can't  go  in  RSW  [refrigerated                                                               
saltwater].   The boats out  westward are looking  to consolidate                                                               
their business, he added.                                                                                                       
CHAIR SEATON  surmised that the  committee would hear  from those                                                               
Number 1745                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE OGG mentioned that Mr.  McCune had said there'd be                                                               
a vote  before going to  the board,  but offered his  own reading                                                               
that the regulation would be adopted and then voted on.                                                                         
MR. MCCUNE acknowledged that he might have had it backwards.                                                                    
Number 1690                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE OGG stated  concerns:  the focus on  the vote, the                                                               
testimony from Bristol  Bay, and knowing the  concerns and nature                                                               
of salmon fishermen.   He said the issue of  allocation starts to                                                               
play  into  it.   Saying  he  thought  the  intent of  the  Joint                                                               
Legislative Salmon Industry Task Force  was to add flexibility to                                                               
the  fishing industry  so it  could adapt,  he expressed  concern                                                               
that the 66 percent vote, given  what he said is the conservative                                                               
nature of fishermen  and the fisheries, empowers  the minority to                                                               
stop flexibility.                                                                                                               
MR.  McCUNE reflected  that he  didn't  have a  position at  this                                                               
time.   He  said he  was still  waiting to  hear from  the board.                                                               
Some  think  the  vote  should  be  taken  out,  and  others  are                                                               
comfortable with it,  he noted.  He agreed the  salmon task force                                                               
came up  with a high threshold,  but said it could  be changed by                                                               
these discussions.                                                                                                              
Number 1481                                                                                                                     
CHAIR SEATON  asked how votes  taken with regard to  previous tax                                                               
bills were structured.                                                                                                          
MR. McCUNE replied  that the aquaculture tax had to  be a vote of                                                               
the  permit  holders  in  the  area  conducted  by  the  regional                                                               
hatchery; it was a majority vote.                                                                                               
CHAIR  SEATON  asked if  other  restructuring  bills had  the  66                                                               
percent vote.                                                                                                                   
MR. McCUNE said he wasn't sure.                                                                                                 
Number 1381                                                                                                                     
SCOTT McALLISTER, Seiner,  spoke in favor of HB 409.   He said he                                                               
has felt for  years that the 58-foot length  limit has restricted                                                               
the quality of  his business.  He emphasize how  important it was                                                               
to get the [issue] to the Board  of Fisheries.  He noted he was a                                                               
big fan of the Board  of Fisheries process whereby fishermen have                                                               
the access  to regulation  and can take  control of  fisheries in                                                               
ways that are meaningful to them.   He said he believes this bill                                                               
works as part of that process.                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE OGG asked Mr. McAllister  how he felt about the 66                                                               
percent vote requirement.                                                                                                       
MR. McALLISTER  answered that  he didn't  think it  was necessary                                                               
and had  never seen  the board  move brashly  and go  against the                                                               
majority.  He felt decisions were best left up to the board.                                                                    
Number 1184                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  asked Mr.  McAllister what size  of vessel                                                               
he needs to accomplish the operations he referred to earlier.                                                                   
MR.  McALLISTER replied  that he  had a  design in  his head;  he                                                               
described his current boat and said  there is plenty of room on a                                                               
58-foot boat to  handle the largest legal purse  seine allowed in                                                               
Southeast Alaska.  He'd like at  least another 10 feet forward of                                                               
the current  well deck, the working  deck.  He explained  that he                                                               
has "big-gulped"  30,000-40,000 pounds  [of fish]  and, in  a few                                                               
minutes, turned  around and  got more.   Volume  is the  goal, he                                                               
explained.   He needs the room  to slow down and  turn the volume                                                               
into quality.   He  explained how he  would create  a value-added                                                               
fish hold with  the extra 10 feet, and how  he then wouldn't have                                                               
to deliver the fish "in rigor."                                                                                                 
MR. McALLISTER  explained that the  bulk of salmon  are harvested                                                               
by seiners  who have to deliver  "abused" fish.  Using  the extra                                                               
10 feet,  he would sort, hydrate,  and bleed the fish,  and store                                                               
them in  a chilled  environment, thus avoiding  any abuse  to the                                                               
fish.  He said his goal is  to deliver a quality fish, similar to                                                               
farmed fish, and not crude "h &  g" [headed and gutted] fish.  In                                                               
reply to questions  from Chair Seaton, Mr.  McAllister said space                                                               
is  the  requirement  he  doesn't  have  now;  he  needs  another                                                               
apparatus to  bring the fish out  of the water and  elevate them.                                                               
Chances are, his sets would be  the same size, but the pace would                                                               
slow  down.   [The added  space] would  allow him  to be  market-                                                               
Number 0586                                                                                                                     
BRUCE WALLACE,  Purse Seine Vessel  Owner, testified in  favor of                                                               
HB 409.   Concurring with  Mr. McAllister's ideas,  he emphasized                                                               
that  seine fishing  is essentially  volume-driven; the  extra 10                                                               
feet would  slow down  the process  and take  some of  the volume                                                               
away,  but the  loss  of  volume would  be  made  up in  quality.                                                               
Agreeing  that [the  58-foot limit]  ought to  be extracted  from                                                               
statute and  put into  regulation, he also  agreed with  the need                                                               
for change,  with the  desire to  have the  vote at  a 51-percent                                                               
majority, and that it has to go through the board process.                                                                      
Number 0098                                                                                                                     
DAVE AUSTERBACK,  Member, Sand  Point Advisory  Committee (SPAC),                                                               
noting that he has been in  the fish seine business for 40 years,                                                               
said he believes the 58-foot limit has worked well.                                                                             
TAPE 04-5, SIDE A                                                                                                             
Number 0001                                                                                                                     
MR. AUSTERBACK said the 58-foot  limit has slowed down fisheries,                                                               
which he  supports.  Many 58-foot  boats in his area  are already                                                               
being widened.   As  a marine  vessel surveyor,  he spoke  of the                                                               
value,  practicality, and  stronger stability  of 58-foot  boats.                                                               
He  said because  quotas  are small,  hauling  [volumes] of  fish                                                               
isn't  an  issue  with  SPAC.   Furthermore,  the  58-foot  limit                                                               
protects  coastal  community  fisheries,  where  people  want  to                                                               
process on shore  because of a lack of market  opportunities.  He                                                               
said his  area is still  volume-oriented, with a  few value-added                                                               
programs.    Not  personally  a strong  supporter  of  the  board                                                               
process   because  of   political  motivation   and  ever-growing                                                               
restrictions, he noted that SPAC supports the 66 percent vote.                                                                  
Number 0440                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  SEATON asked  Mr. Austerback  to explain  the relationship                                                               
between the groundfish fisheries and the 58-foot [limit].                                                                       
MR.  AUSTERBACK  explained  that  his  area  has  a  state  water                                                               
groundfish fishery that takes place  seven days after the federal                                                               
fishery; the  only vessels that  can participate are 58  feet and                                                               
CHAIR SEATON  asked if the  state water groundfish  fishery would                                                               
have to  be changed  for the  fleet in  Mr. Austerback's  area to                                                               
participate if the boats were longer than 58 feet.                                                                              
MR.  AUSTERBACK answered  in  the  affirmative.   In  reply to  a                                                               
question  from  Representative  Wilson,  he  said  his  area  was                                                               
currently involved  in value-added  processing and in  new market                                                               
areas in the salmon fishing industry.                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON offered  her  understanding, "Because  you                                                               
want to be  able to use your  same boat in the  other fishery, if                                                               
this was available, most of you wouldn't take advantage of it."                                                                 
MR. AUSTERBACK replied no [they wouldn't take advantage of it].                                                                 
Number 0662                                                                                                                     
JOHN FOSTER,  President, Sand  Point Advisory  Committee; Member,                                                               
Board  of Directors,  Peninsula Marketing  Association, spoke  if                                                               
decreased value  of boats if  HB 409 passes.   He said  a smaller                                                               
net won't work  on a larger vessel.   Volume is not  a problem in                                                               
his area.  He  did see a problem with the  effects on state water                                                               
groundfish  fisheries  if the  limit  size  is changed.    Asking                                                               
whether  the  66 percent  vote  requirement  was for  all  permit                                                               
holders or just  seine permit holders, he pointed  out that there                                                               
are  three  types  of  gear  in  his  area  but  75  percent  are                                                               
gillnetters.  Saying the driftnetters  and gillnetters won't vote                                                               
for the seiners to have  larger boats, he predicted court battles                                                               
over this issue.                                                                                                                
Number 0860                                                                                                                     
CHAIR SEATON explained that the way  the bill is set up, the vote                                                               
is 66 percent of the fishery, by gear type.                                                                                     
MR. FOSTER asked if it applies just to seiners.                                                                                 
CHAIR SEATON said that is correct.                                                                                              
MR.  FOSTER added  that  many  UFA board  members  have not  been                                                               
contacted about the bill, and he suggested that be done.                                                                        
CHAIR  SEATON  replied  that  UFA was  listening  and  had  heard                                                               
Mr. Foster's comment.                                                                                                           
Number 0967                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON asked  if Mr. Foster's area  would not take                                                               
advantage of HB 409 either.                                                                                                     
MR. FOSTER  replied no.   He explained  that the majority  of the                                                               
money to his area comes from bottom fishing.                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON  asked Mr.  Foster whether  his biggest  concern, if                                                               
the  58-foot length  were  eliminated,  would be  a  big push  to                                                               
eliminate the 58-foot restriction  for the state water fisheries,                                                               
which  is  where the  fleet  derives  its largest  percentage  of                                                               
income now, even though those same vessels fish for salmon.                                                                     
MR. FOSTER  replied yes.   He said  he didn't see  [fishermen] in                                                               
his area cutting themselves off from the state water fishery.                                                                   
CHAIR   SEATON  acknowledged   the   arrival  of   Representative                                                               
Williams, sponsor of HB 409.                                                                                                    
Number 1138                                                                                                                     
TIM MOORE, Seiner,  spoke about Prince William Sound  and the few                                                               
opportunities  for  high-grade salmon  there.    Noting that  the                                                               
majority of  the fish are pinks  and chums, he predicted  that it                                                               
would  be more  likely  for boats  to team  up  [rather than  for                                                               
fishermen to  increase the length of  their boats].  He  said the                                                               
value-added  idea  doesn't  apply  much  to  his  area,  and  the                                                               
consolidation of  vessels doesn't  apply to his  area due  to the                                                               
small number of  permits and small harvest.  The  reality is that                                                               
some [boats]  may be put out  of business in the  attempt to have                                                               
better-quality fish if  larger boats are used.  He  said with the                                                               
66 percent vote, however, the  chance of that happening was slim.                                                               
He stated support for the 66  percent vote because of the benefit                                                               
to individual areas.                                                                                                            
CHAIR SEATON thanked participants.  [HB 409 was held over.]                                                                     

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