Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/16/2004 01:20 PM House JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 309 - PROHIBIT RELEASE OF PREDATORY FISH                                                                                   
Number 0418                                                                                                                     
CHAIR McGUIRE 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."   [Before the                                                               
committee was CSHB 309(RES).]                                                                                                   
Number 0402                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLY WOLF,  Alaska  State Legislature,  sponsor,                                                               
relayed that  HB 309 "ran into  a glitch" in the  House Resources                                                               
Standing  Committee  and  was therefore  referred  to  the  House                                                               
Judiciary  Standing  Committee.   House  Bill  309 addresses  the                                                               
issues of knowingly transporting predatory  fish from one body of                                                               
water in  the state  to another and  of importing  predatory fish                                                               
into the  state.   Using the  Kenai Peninsula  as an  example, he                                                               
relayed that within the last  two years, the Alaska Department of                                                               
Fish &  Game (ADF&G) spent  nearly $40,000 poisoning a  lake that                                                               
had had "yellow perch" - a predatory fish - introduced into it.                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE WOLF noted that it  is currently against state law                                                               
to transport fish  without a permit, but pointed out  that in the                                                               
past, people  have transported northern  pike into places  on the                                                               
Kenai Peninsula and in "the valley,"  though that type of fish is                                                               
nonindigenous  to those  areas.   Such  behavior  can cause  huge                                                               
impacts on local  economies, he remarked, adding  that this year,                                                               
the ADF&G, through  a grant from the U.S. Department  of Fish and                                                               
Wildlife, used  hoop nets to  catch and dispose of  northern pike                                                               
from two lakes on the Kenai  Peninsula.  He suggested that having                                                               
an  invasion of  northern pike  on Alaska's  natural salmon  runs                                                               
would be devastating to Alaska's economy.                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE  WOLF   posited  that  the  question   before  the                                                               
committee  is,   does  the  legislature   want  to   hold  people                                                               
accountable   when  they   choose   to   transport  and   release                                                               
nonindigenous predatory fish into  Alaska's waters simply because                                                               
they  have a  desire to  catch  northern pike,  for example,  "in                                                               
their back yard."                                                                                                               
CHAIR  McGUIRE  indicated  that  she likes  the  inclusion  of  a                                                               
definition section in  the bill.  Directing attention  to page 1,                                                               
line  13, she  asked  what  is meant  by  the phrase,  "generally                                                               
accepted conduct in relation to permitted commercial fishing".                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE  WOLF explained  that  it is  common practice  for                                                               
commercial fisherman to  transport live crab in  their holds, and                                                               
he did  not want  to interfere in  that practice;  therefore, the                                                               
aforementioned language was included in  the bill as an exemption                                                               
for permitted commercial fishing activities.                                                                                    
TAPE 04-68, SIDE A                                                                                                            
Number 0092                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  OGG added  that in  the crabbing  industry it  is                                                               
possible  to get  crab from  one location,  transport it  live to                                                               
another location, and in the  process release eggs and undersized                                                               
crabs  in an  area in  which that  type of  crab is  not normally                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE GARA offered his belief  that in the sport fishing                                                               
industry, it is  not really possible to accidentally  drop a live                                                               
fish from one drainage into another drainage.                                                                                   
CHAIR McGUIRE pointed out, however,  that in at-sea sport fishing                                                               
vessels,  there  are live  holding  tanks,  and  so it  might  be                                                               
possible to accidentally infest a  particular area with fish that                                                               
do not normally occupy that area.                                                                                               
Number 0310                                                                                                                     
ROB  BENTZ,  Deputy  Director, Division  of  Sport  Fish,  Alaska                                                               
Department of Fish & Game  (ADF&G), concurred that it is possible                                                               
for commercial  crab fishermen to  transport one type of  crab to                                                               
an area  in which it wouldn't  ordinarily be found.   He remarked                                                               
that  although the  same may  be true  to some  extent for  sport                                                               
fishing,  the  transported  fish/crab would  not  be  transported                                                               
hundreds  of miles  such  as might  be possible  in  the case  of                                                               
commercial crab fishing.                                                                                                        
CHAIR McGUIRE,  raised the issue  of transporting live  bait, and                                                               
indicated that she  did not want to make criminals  out of people                                                               
who  are  simply  engaging  in common  practice,  whether  it  be                                                               
commercial fishing or sport fishing.                                                                                            
MR. BENTZ  offered his  belief that such  would not  happen under                                                               
the bill, adding  that the Board of Fisheries  recently adopted a                                                               
statewide regulation  that specifically  allows sport  anglers to                                                               
use,  possess, hold,  and transport  live  fish as  bait in  salt                                                               
CHAIR McGUIRE asked  whether there would be any  harm in amending                                                               
page  1, lines  13-14,  to say,  "generally  accepted conduct  in                                                               
relation  to  permitted  commercial  fishing  and  sport  fishing                                                               
MR. BENTZ said  he wouldn't have a problem that  language so long                                                               
as  the  word  "saltwater"  was  added  between  "permitted"  and                                                               
"commercial"; such  would ensure that  if an aquatic  organism is                                                               
caught in  the Pacific Ocean,  it would  only be released  in the                                                               
Pacific  Ocean,  and  would  preclude  someone  from  making  the                                                               
argument  regarding  freshwater  sport   fishing  that  it  is  a                                                               
generally accepted practice  to take pike from  the Susitna River                                                               
and release them in the Kenai River.                                                                                            
CHAIR  McGUIRE, in  response to  a question,  clarified that  her                                                               
suggestion,  then, would  be to  change page  1, lines  13-14, to                                                               
say, "(3)   generally accepted  conduct in relation  to saltwater                                                               
permitted commercial fishing or sport fishing activities."                                                                      
Number 0524                                                                                                                     
CHAIR McGUIRE,  in response  to a  question, indicated  that that                                                               
language would be  considered Amendment 1, and  that the question                                                               
of whether to adopt Amendment 1 was before the committee.                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE GARA indicated that he had alternative language.                                                                 
Number 0581                                                                                                                     
CHAIR McGUIRE withdrew Amendment 1.                                                                                             
Number 0599                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA  made a  motion  to  adopt Amendment  2,  to                                                               
insert "saltwater"  between "permitted" and "commercial",  and to                                                               
insert "or  sport" after "commercial"  on page  1, line 13.   The                                                               
effect  of Amendment  2 would  be to  make page  1, lines  13-14,                                                               
read:  (3)   generally accepted conduct in  relation to permitted                                                               
saltwater  commercial  or  sport   fishing.".    There  being  no                                                               
objection, Amendment 2 was adopted.                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  HOLM -  directing  attention  to subsection  (b),                                                               
which pertains  to ornamental  fish - relayed  that he'd  been in                                                               
the  pet  store business  for  many  years.    He said  he  could                                                               
envision the  language in  subsection (b) making  a felon  out of                                                               
someone who  dumps the wastewater  from his/her fish tank  into a                                                               
septic system,  since the water in  a septic system goes  into an                                                               
aquifer and ultimately ends up in  "the waters of the state".  He                                                               
then  went on  to detail  the  process that  some commercial  pet                                                               
stores  use with  regard  to  their ornamental  fish  tanks.   He                                                               
expressed the concern  that [subsection (b)], as  written, is too                                                               
broad and may produce unintended consequences.                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE WOLF suggested, on page 2,  on both lines 1 and 2,                                                               
changing  "the water  of  the  state" to  "a  water  body of  the                                                               
state".     He  posited   that  such   a  change   would  address                                                               
Representative Holm's concern.                                                                                                  
CHAIR McGUIRE mentioned the term "navigable waters".                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE GARA noted  that there is already  a definition of                                                               
"waters of the state" [in subsection  (d)(4) of the bill], and it                                                               
does not  include aquifers.   He suggested changing page  2, line                                                               
1,  to simply  say:    "ornamental fish  into  the  water of  the                                                               
state."   He indicated his  belief that this  simplified language                                                               
coupled  with  the  definition in  subsection  (d)(4)  should  be                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG, noting  that the  original version  of                                                               
the bill pertained  to predatory fish, asked why  the bill should                                                               
now pertain to ornamental fish as well as predatory fish.                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE WOLF said  his intent with HB 309 was  to focus on                                                               
predatory fish such  as northern pike, but  through the committee                                                               
process the bill has metamorphosed into something far different.                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  asked how members felt  about including                                                               
the term "predatory" in the bill.                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  recalled one instance of  an ornamental fish                                                               
living in Campbell Creek.                                                                                                       
CHAIR McGUIRE  reminded the committee  of need to be  clear about                                                               
what  kind  of  conduct  it  is that  leads  up  to  the  penalty                                                               
currently outlined  in the bill  - a class  C felony.   She asked                                                               
Mr. Bentz  to comment on why  the bill no longer  says "predatory                                                               
nonindigenous fish".                                                                                                            
Number 1202                                                                                                                     
MR. BENTZ pointed  out that all aquatic  organisms are predatory.                                                               
Therefore, a  list would  be needed to  clarify what  species the                                                               
bill is intended to apply to.                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  opined that  they ought  to be  able to                                                               
define,  at  least  generally, the  term  "predatory  fish";  the                                                               
department could  then establish regulations further  listing the                                                               
exact species.                                                                                                                  
MR. BENTZ remarked that although  such could be done, two species                                                               
that  have the  potential to  cause the  greatest harm  to Alaska                                                               
probably wouldn't  be included  in a list  of "predatory  fish" -                                                               
one being  the "green crab,"  which is  slowly making its  way up                                                               
the  northwest  coast  and which  can  cause  massive  ecological                                                               
dislocations; and the other being "zebra mussels."                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said he was  thinking along the lines of                                                               
giving  the  department  the  flexibility to  create  a  list  of                                                               
whatever  species -  be  it fish  or other  organisms  - that  it                                                               
determines could be harmful to Alaska's ecosystems.                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE BENTZ  mentioned that such  a list might  be quite                                                               
CHAIR McGUIRE remarked:  "If you  want to make it a serious crime                                                               
because of the impacts, which I  think we all agree there are, we                                                               
should know what  type of fish we're talking about  so that folks                                                               
can avoid that criminal conduct."                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE GARA surmised that  there are really two problems,                                                               
one  related to  predatory fish  and  the other  related to  non-                                                               
predatory fish that are diseased.   Regarding the latter problem,                                                               
it  is  not possible  to  anticipate  every scenario  that  might                                                               
develop.  Therefore,  the message the bill sends  should be, "You                                                               
don't put fish into our wild waters that don't belong there."                                                                   
Number 1462                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  McGUIRE  announced that  she  is  assigning  HB 309  to  a                                                               
subcommittee   consisting   of    Representative   Holm,   chair;                                                               
Representative Gara;  and Representative Samuels.   She asked the                                                               
members of the subcommittee to  meet soon and consider the issues                                                               
of appropriate penalties and specificity  of species for the sake                                                               
of clarity.                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  SAMUELS asked  Mr. Bentz  whether the  department                                                               
has  caught  anyone releasing  pike  into  streams for  malicious                                                               
MR.  BENTZ said  they have  not apprehended  anyone doing  it for                                                               
malicious reasons; in almost every  case, persons have introduced                                                               
nonindigenous species so  as to have the opportunity  to fish for                                                               
a species they are familiar with.                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  WOLF said  that according  to conversations  he's                                                               
had with ADF&G  and U.S. Department Fish  and Wildlife personnel,                                                               
there  have   been  several  instances  wherein   they  suspected                                                               
individuals  transported  northern  pike to  specific  bodies  of                                                               
water within the state, but  without being able to actually catch                                                               
these  individuals releasing  fish, the  prospects of  conviction                                                               
are not good.                                                                                                                   
CHAIR McGUIRE, addressing members  of the subcommittee, mentioned                                                               
that perhaps staggered penalties might be in order.                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG concurred,  suggesting that  if someone                                                               
intentionally introduces a  species into a body of  water for the                                                               
purpose of fishing a familiar  species, that should have a higher                                                               
MR.  BENTZ   mentioned  that   currently,  unless   specified  as                                                               
misdemeanors,  behavior prohibited  by ADF&G  regulations results                                                               
in violations.                                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE  HOLM, as  chair  of the  subcommittee, asked  Mr.                                                               
Bentz to provide him with a copy of the current penalties.                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG noted  that  CSHB  309(RES) contains  a                                                               
minimum  fine  of $1,500,  and  suggested  that the  subcommittee                                                               
consider this issue as well.                                                                                                    
Number 1719                                                                                                                     
CHAIR McGUIRE  relayed that  HB 309  [CSHB 309(RES),  as amended]                                                               
would be held  over for the purpose of  allowing the subcommittee                                                               
to meet and discuss the issues raised.                                                                                          

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