Legislature(2009 - 2010)BARNES 124

02/16/2010 10:15 AM FISHERIES

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Moved Out of Committee
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Heard & Held
              HB 266-PERSONAL USE FISHING PRIORITY                                                                          
10:42:00 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR EDGMON announced  that the next order of  business would be                                                               
HOUSE  BILL NO.  266  "An  Act providing  for  a  priority for  a                                                               
fishery   that   is   restricted  to   residents   when   fishing                                                               
restrictions are implemented to achieve an escapement goal."                                                                    
10:43:12 AM                                                                                                                   
JENNIFER  YUHAS   Public  Communications   Director,  Legislative                                                               
Liaison, Office  of the Commissioner, acknowledged  the questions                                                               
from a  February 9, 2010, hearing  on the bill regarding  the use                                                               
of  sonar  to  establish  escapement numbers  on  certain  salmon                                                               
streams,  and assured  the committee  that this  is not  the sole                                                               
method  used  on  such  streams,  or the  sole  source  on  which                                                               
decisions are made.                                                                                                             
10:43:55 AM                                                                                                                   
JOHN  HILLSINGER,  Director,  Division of  Commercial  Fisheries,                                                               
Alaska Department of Fish &  Game (ADF&G), reported that sonar is                                                               
the last  resort for  counting fish,  and used  only in  the most                                                               
challenging situations.  In clear  rivers or small streams, other                                                               
methods are employed, such as a  weir.  However, for wide, turbid                                                               
type  rivers, sonar  is used  due  to the  inherent challenge  of                                                               
enumerating fish in those types of systems.                                                                                     
10:45:08 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  BUCH  asked  in  what orders  the  fisheries  are                                                               
currently prioritized.                                                                                                          
MR. HILLSINGER  said state  law requires  that first  priority be                                                               
afforded to  the subsistence fishery.   A complex system  is used                                                               
to  determine how  large  of  a run  must  be  present, prior  to                                                               
opening  other fisheries.    The Board  of  Fisheries (BOF)  will                                                               
often,  through  management  plans,  set area  priorities.    For                                                               
instance,  he  said,  the  late   Kenai  sockeye  salmon  run  is                                                               
typically managed primarily for  commercial uses, while the early                                                               
Cook  Inlet  runs  may  be  managed  for  recreational  purposes.                                                               
However, as far  as the state as a whole  all other fisheries are                                                               
equal in priority, following subsistence needs.                                                                                 
10:46:40 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER  requested   further  information  on  the                                                               
current  sonar technology;  a  brief history  and  update of  the                                                               
state's usage.                                                                                                                  
MR. HILLSINGER  explained that the original  fish counting sonars                                                               
were  developed in  the late  1960's, by  the Bendix  Corporation                                                               
working with  ADF&G staff largely on  the Kenai River.   An ADF&G                                                               
employee  developed   and  built  the  devices   for  the  Bendix                                                               
Corporation.  The devices are  not without limitations, one being                                                               
that there is  no means to extract  a savable data file.   All of                                                               
the information is  contained within the sonar  box, which prints                                                               
out the data.   Additionally, the Bendix counters  have a limited                                                               
range of  about 60  feet.   This works well  for sockeye  and, in                                                               
some systems, chum, which are  bank oriented species, however, in                                                               
larger  systems, and  with other  species, the  department sought                                                               
other means  for counting.  A  series of other types  of counters                                                               
were  tried,  and  again depending  on  the  limitations,  proved                                                               
helpful.    The most  recent  generation  is the  Dual  Frequency                                                               
Identification Sonar  (DIDSON), designed  for the Navy  to locate                                                               
objects  on the  ocean floor.   These  devices are  replacing the                                                               
Bendix counters in the various river  systems.  The DIDSON uses a                                                               
series of projections, 96 beams,  that provides a real picture of                                                               
a  fish,  size,  and  possible species  identification,  via  the                                                               
computer interface.   Sonar cannot generally range  to the bottom                                                               
of  a river,  but with  the DIDSON  it is  possible, and  where a                                                               
concave bottom  exists it  is a  valuable tool.   The  device has                                                               
provided  a  great  amount  of   flexibility  to  achieve  better                                                               
accuracy.  In some areas a split  beam sonar may be set up on one                                                               
side of  a river, and  the DIDSON on  the other, to  produce good                                                               
results.   The next generation of  sonar may be even  better, and                                                               
the  ability  to  establish  accurate  counts  will  continue  to                                                               
improve.   He said  the main problem  is determining  the species                                                               
apportionment.  Sonar  provides a fish count,  but the department                                                               
must  determine   the  species,  and  differentiate   the  number                                                               
represented.   In some systems  fish are caught to  determine the                                                               
species  apportionment.   To  determine  the  proportion of  king                                                               
salmon, mixed  in with the  chum salmon  run on the  Yukon River,                                                               
for  instance,   the  4   million  fish   sonar  count   must  be                                                               
scrutinized,  and the  correct  apportions  determined, prior  to                                                               
making  an  estimate.    Other systems  have  similar  mixed  run                                                               
10:53:36 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE   KELLER  surmised   that,  despite   the  various                                                               
limitations, it appears that Alaska  leads the globe in utilizing                                                               
this technology,  and commended ADF&G  for doing a good  job with                                                               
the sonar counting abilities.                                                                                                   
MR. HILLSINGER agreed,  and reported that it is  a well developed                                                               
program,  which,  under  the  most  challenging  situations,  has                                                               
proven  to  be valuable  and  provided  consistent  data.   As  a                                                               
reminder,  he said,  that due  to high  debris levels,  silt, and                                                               
other obstacles, estimates are still  within 20 percent of a true                                                               
10:55:06 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE   KELLER   recalled   the   director's   statement                                                               
regarding the  possibility of managing certain  runs for specific                                                               
user groups, and asked for further details.                                                                                     
MR.  HILLSINGER referred  to the  Upper Cook  Inlet runs,  for an                                                               
example of how  this takes place.  The salmon  stocks that arrive                                                               
prior  to  July  1st  are   primarily  managed  for  recreational                                                               
purposes.   Commercial  fisheries  take place  concurrently on  a                                                               
limited basis,  or late in  the period.   The August  coho salmon                                                               
runs  are  managed  for  recreational   use  also,  and  closures                                                               
typically  occur  in the  commercial  fishery.   To  a  follow-up                                                               
question, he  said the initial management  plans were established                                                               
in the  early 1970's, and are  still being implemented.   In some                                                               
situations, if stock assessment is  uncertain, by default more of                                                               
the run may go to recreational users than to commercial users.                                                                  
10:58:43 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  MILLETT surmised  that some  fisheries have  more                                                               
historical  data  available.   However,  she  questioned  whether                                                               
there  was  enough  data   accumulated  for  relatively  recently                                                               
developed  personal  use  and   recreational  fisheries  for  the                                                               
department to balance allocations  for those uses with commercial                                                               
use fisheries allocations.                                                                                                      
MR.  HILLSINGER  said  probably  what  varies  the  most  is  the                                                               
complexity  of  the fishery,  rather  than  the amount  of  data.                                                               
Bristol Bay  may have  the oldest data,  ranging from  the 1950s.                                                               
Cook  Inlet  has  historical  information,  regarding  commercial                                                               
fisheries that occurred  in the 1800s.  There is  an active stock                                                               
identification program  and good  escapement estimations  on many                                                               
of  the  major runs.    The  Susitna  drainage  and much  of  the                                                               
northern district  could be characterized  as having  the poorest                                                               
history of data.   Early use of Bendix sonars  in the Yetna River                                                               
and the Susitna drainage provided  inaccurate information that is                                                               
now  being  revised.    The  legislature  recently  provided  the                                                               
department with  funding to study  the Susitna area, and  much is                                                               
being learned.  He said, if  asked whether the department has the                                                               
right tools to manage changes  in allocation, the answer would be                                                               
that it  has some, but  it is difficult  due to the  mixed stocks                                                               
and  uses.   Metaphorically speaking,  it is  akin to  performing                                                               
surgery using  a meat cleaver  instead of a scalpel,  and hitting                                                               
specific management  targets is  a challenge.   The Susitna  is a                                                               
particularly complex and  difficult system to manage,  due to the                                                               
nature of the runs.                                                                                                             
11:03:31 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE MILLETT asked if  the department has confidence in                                                               
the data being received for personal  use dip net fisheries.  She                                                               
also asked how the information is attained.                                                                                     
MR. HILLSINGER said the Cook  Inlet personal use fishery requires                                                               
users to turn in documentation of  their catch.  Compared to some                                                               
personal use fisheries that don't  have this type of requirement,                                                               
it  appears to  be  working well.   He  opined  that requiring  a                                                               
permit provides a level of  accountability.  When fishermen leave                                                               
the  dock  without filling  out  the  report, data  becomes  less                                                               
accurate,  hence, ADF&G  positions  staff to  help minimize  this                                                               
situation.  The public has  expressed continued concern regarding                                                               
the need for  additional enforcement.  He  characterized the data                                                               
received  as  good,  with  a  high  return  rate,  providing  the                                                               
department a level of confidence.                                                                                               
CHAIR  EDGMON  asked if  the  department  is satisfied  with  the                                                               
information received on the dip net fishery.                                                                                    
11:06:56 AM                                                                                                                   
MR.  HILLSINGER   responded  that   the  numbers  appear   to  be                                                               
increasing,  with 29,000  permits issued,  up from  23,000.   The                                                               
harvest is  becoming more  effective, with  an increasing  use of                                                               
boats being witnessed, indicating a notable growth.                                                                             
CHAIR EDGMON inquired whether the users are Alaskan residents.                                                                  
MR.   HILLSINGER  responded   that  the   users  are   presumably                                                               
residents, as they are required  to hold a resident sport fishing                                                               
license to participate.                                                                                                         
11:07:57 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE   KAWASAKI  referred   to  a   previous  statement                                                               
regarding  the  confidence level  of  sonar  numbers.   He  asked                                                               
whether  the  sonar station  at  the  Yukon  River is  within  20                                                               
percent  accuracy,   and  if  that  is   a  typically  acceptable                                                               
variable, or does it represent a huge amount of error.                                                                          
11:08:36 AM                                                                                                                   
MR.  HILLSINGER responded  that, in  terms of  estimating a  fish                                                               
count,  it is  considered  good.   The tower  count  allows a  10                                                               
percent error,  which is  excellent.  The  Yukon River  users are                                                               
demanding more  precise management, and the  department is trying                                                               
to do  a better job.   Efforts to  improve the Yukon  River count                                                               
include:  a  new site for improved count accuracy,  use of a side                                                               
scan sonar on a boat  mount, and other considerations are getting                                                               
attention.   Moving sonar sites  up the  river is not  always the                                                               
best  idea as  it takes  longer for  fish to  move up  river, and                                                               
therefore there  is a  greater delay in  using these  numbers for                                                               
management of  the fishery occurring  at the mouth of  the river.                                                               
It  is a  challenge to  determine how  many fish  will enter  the                                                               
river  and pass  the sonar  station.   The  Eagle sonar  station,                                                               
provides a more accurate count  due to fewer species.  Confidence                                                               
intervals,  margins of  error, from  the different  locations are                                                               
factored in, and uncertainty does exist.                                                                                        
11:12:53 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE   KAWASAKI  stated   his   appreciation  for   the                                                               
complexity of gathering this data,  but he maintained his concern                                                               
that  20  percent is  a  large  variance for  achieving  accurate                                                               
management.     He  asked  how  the   department  would  approach                                                               
complying with HB 266.                                                                                                          
MR. HILLSINGER  said the department will  look to the BOF  to set                                                               
management  plans, to  meet the  requirements  of the  bill.   He                                                               
cited  areas  near   Fairbanks,  which  do  not   have  the  same                                                               
contentiousness as the south central locations.                                                                                 
11:16:32 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE BUCH  relayed his  experience fishing  the Russian                                                               
River   and  [receiving]   the  routinely   accurate  predictions                                                               
provided by  the department on  the sockeye  runs.  In  some ways                                                               
the  department has  done a  terrific job  of accounting  for the                                                               
fisheries   involved.      He  expressed   amazement   with   the                                                               
department's  management  of  specific  areas,  and  praised  the                                                               
expertise  brought  by  the  director  to  serve  the  individual                                                               
fisheries.  He asked how the  bill relates to what the department                                                               
is trying to accomplish.                                                                                                        
MR. HILLSINGER  cited the 18  regulatory management plans  in the                                                               
Upper Cook  Inlet, which  is due  to the  number of  user groups.                                                               
With this  type of complexity,  challenges ensue for  meeting the                                                               
targets.   Certain constraints in  management plans have  made it                                                               
difficult to  provide precise escapement goals,  and thus results                                                               
in poor  returns due to  over escapement.   Depending on  how the                                                               
board  decides  to  serve  the   various  interests,  it  can  be                                                               
difficult for  ADF&G to assure  healthy returns.   The department                                                               
remains  neutral   on  this  issue.     However,  in   trying  to                                                               
accommodate  all those  different interests,  it has  become more                                                               
difficult for the fisheries managers to hit escapement targets.                                                                 
11:22:44 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE BUCH stated his  interest in providing legislation                                                               
that works  for the department.   The neutral position,  taken by                                                               
the department is  a bit confusing, and knowing  whether the bill                                                               
helps, or hinders, the department,  would assist his decision for                                                               
supporting or opposing the bill.                                                                                                
MR.  HILLSINGER  offered   that  HB  266  does   not  present  an                                                               
impossibility for  the department, but  it may make the  job more                                                               
11:24:15 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR EDGMON  queried whether  the concerns  addressed in  HB 266                                                               
are exclusive to Southcentral Alaska.                                                                                           
MR. HILLSINGER  said there are  number of personal  use fisheries                                                               
throughout the  state, but the  largest are in Southcentral.   In                                                               
addition,  there   are  king  crab  personal   use  fisheries  in                                                               
Southeast  Alaska  and  many  personal   use  fisheries  in  non-                                                               
subsistence  fisheries  around  Fairbanks.    The  [personal  use                                                               
fisheries]  are  an aspect  of  the  fishery that  is  widespread                                                               
throughout  the state  and as  time goes  by, he  predicted, more                                                               
issues may develop related to personal use fishing.                                                                             
11:25:35 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  EDGMON   surmised  that,   given  the   uncertainties  for                                                               
achieving  escapement goals,  there  is an  implication that  the                                                               
department  may   change  how  they  are   approaching  fisheries                                                               
MR.  HILLSINGER said  within the  non-subsistence  areas, HB  266                                                               
would give a personal use  fishery the kind of priority generally                                                               
reserved for subsistence.  Fisheries  are specifically managed to                                                               
provide the subsistence  priority, and this bill  could result in                                                               
problems.    Areas such  as  the  Yukon River  certainly  present                                                               
issues for subsistence  management.  The complexity  of the Upper                                                               
Cook  Inlet presents  a question  of meeting  the priorities,  as                                                               
11:28:44 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER commented  that the  committee packet  has                                                               
30-40 letters of  adamant opposition to the  bill.  Additionally,                                                               
he reported  a significant  number of contacts  in his  office to                                                               
pass the  bill.  The personal  use fishery doesn't have  a lobby,                                                               
or a tax, and he stated  his feeling of personal engagement in HB
266; it represents a significant part of the Alaskan ethos.                                                                     
11:30:50 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  KAWASAKI  asked how  a  personal  use fishery  is                                                               
MR.  HILLSINGER  responded  that  the BOF  created  personal  use                                                               
fisheries in the early 1980's  in response to strong salmon runs,                                                               
and  Governor  Hammond  recommended an  easier,  more  efficient,                                                               
means for people  to attain fish products.   Today, proposals are                                                               
presented  to the  board, and  a  case by  case determination  is                                                               
11:32:33 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE KAWASAKI  asked whether the board  could designate                                                               
all fisheries for personal use,  and what would prevent that from                                                               
MR. HILLSINGER said the personal  use fishery requires a resident                                                               
sport fishing  license, hence, if  every fishery  were designated                                                               
personal  use,  non-residents  would   be  eliminated  from  ever                                                               
participating.   Public policy interest would  prohibit the board                                                               
from placing a fishery under one category.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  KAWASAKI suggested  that  if  further funding  is                                                               
needed to  make better assessments  of fisheries,  perhaps action                                                               
of  that  order   should  be  taken.    He  stated   that  he  is                                                               
undetermined on whether to support the bill.                                                                                    
11:37:04 AM                                                                                                                   
MR. HILLSINGER pointed  out that the sonar at  Pilot Station also                                                               
has an  accompanying test fishing  program to correlate  with the                                                               
sonar results.   A variety  of information  is used to  arrive at                                                               
the closest possible escapement number, he stressed.                                                                            
11:38:11 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR EDGMON  stated that  a CS  for HB 266  is pending  and thus                                                               
public testimony would  be taken when it is  before the committee                                                               
[HB 266 was held over.]                                                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB 266--Eight Emails Opposed.PDF HFSH 2/16/2010 10:15:00 AM
HB 266
HB 266--Seven Emails in Support.PDF HFSH 2/16/2010 10:15:00 AM
HB 266
HB 266--Mark King Opposed.PDF HFSH 2/16/2010 10:15:00 AM
HB 266
HB 266--Wade Buscher Opposed.PDF HFSH 2/16/2010 10:15:00 AM
HB 266
HJR 43--Sponsor Statement.pdf HFSH 2/16/2010 10:15:00 AM
HJR 43
HJR43-HFSH--02-12-10 Fiscal Note.pdf HFSH 2/16/2010 10:15:00 AM
HJR 43
HJR 43--UFA Marketing Coalition Proposal.PDF HFSH 2/16/2010 10:15:00 AM
HJR 43
HJR 43--Salmon Marketing--McDowell Excerpts.PDF HFSH 2/16/2010 10:15:00 AM
HJR 43
HJR 43--CRS S-K Funds Report.PDF HFSH 2/16/2010 10:15:00 AM
HJR 43
HJR 43--ASMI Resolution.PDF HFSH 2/16/2010 10:15:00 AM
HJR 43
HJR 43--Saltonstall-Kennedy Act.pdf HFSH 2/16/2010 10:15:00 AM
HJR 43
HB 266--Jeff Phillips Opposed.PDF HFSH 2/16/2010 10:15:00 AM
HB 266
HB266--Ken Carlson Opposed.pdf HFSH 2/16/2010 10:15:00 AM
HB 266
HB 266--Bob Martinson Opposed.pdf HFSH 2/16/2010 10:15:00 AM
HB 266
HJR 43--UFA Support Letter.PDF HFSH 2/16/2010 10:15:00 AM
HJR 43
HB 266--Sixteen Emails Opposed.PDF HFSH 2/16/2010 10:15:00 AM
HB 266
HB 266--Bill Black Opposed.pdf HFSH 2/16/2010 10:15:00 AM
HB 266
HB 266--Ken Adams Opposed.PDF HFSH 2/16/2010 10:15:00 AM
HB 266