Legislature(2003 - 2004)

02/18/2004 01:06 PM House RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 409-SEINE VESSEL LENGTH                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR MASEK  announced that the  only 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."  She                                                               
informed  the  committee  that   CSHB  409(FSH)  was  before  the                                                               
Number 0136                                                                                                                     
TIM  BARRY,  Staff  to Representative  William  Williams,  Alaska                                                               
State  Legislature,   presented  CSHB   409(FSH)  on   behalf  of                                                               
Representative  Williams,   sponsor  by  request  of   the  Joint                                                               
Legislative  Salmon Industry  Task Force.   This  legislation was                                                               
put forward buy the Joint  Legislative Salmon Industry Task Force                                                               
because  it would  provide the  Board of  Fisheries and  Alaska's                                                               
fishermen an additional tool that  should allow them to diversify                                                               
and increase  the value of  their fish.  The  legislation doesn't                                                               
remove from  statute the 58-foot  length limit on  salmon seiners                                                               
rather  it provides  the  Board of  Fisheries  the discretion  to                                                               
change that limit after going  through the normal public process.                                                               
Furthermore, this legislation will place  these boats in the same                                                               
regulatory regime  as all  other fishing boat  size limits.   The                                                               
58-foot length limit is only one of two that are in statute.                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  MASEK highlighted  that the  [committee members  should                                                               
have]  documents regarding  purse seiners  as well  as the  total                                                               
number of people with permits.                                                                                                  
Number 0381                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  LYNN inquired  as to  the reasoning  for limiting                                                               
the length of the vessels.                                                                                                      
MR. BARRY  related his  understanding that this  is a  statute or                                                               
rule  that predates  statehood.   He  related that  in the  1950s                                                               
there  was a  large fleet  of large  boats from  Puget Sound  and                                                               
those in the  territory were concerned that the  fleet would come                                                               
up  and dominate  the  fishery.   However,  to  date  no one  has                                                               
related why the length of 58 feet was chosen.                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN asked if the same problem could occur now.                                                                  
MR.  BARRY said  that  those  in the  industry  specify that  the                                                               
industry has changed tremendously since  the 1950s.  In fact, now                                                               
there is a  much larger Alaskan fleet than there  is in the Puget                                                               
Sound  fleet.   Therefore, he  surmised that  the concern  is not                                                               
nearly the same.                                                                                                                
Number 0547                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO expressed  concern with  Alaska's inability                                                               
to sell  pink salmon and receive  a good enough price  to prop up                                                               
the market.  However, a larger  boat results in the investment of                                                               
even  more   capital.    He  surmised   that  [this  legislation]                                                               
essentially forces someone to compete  with someone else and take                                                               
a larger risk, which is more  likely to push someone to the brink                                                               
of bankruptcy.  Therefore, he asked  if it is more appropriate to                                                               
use a shorter length limit rather than longer.                                                                                  
MR. BARRY reiterated that the  length limit isn't eliminated with                                                               
the passage  of this legislation,  which merely allows  the Board                                                               
of Fisheries  to determine [the  length].  Mr. Barry  pointed out                                                               
that the Board of Fisheries has  to consider the issues raised by                                                               
Representative  Gatto.    Furthermore, this  legislation  doesn't                                                               
change any  of the other rules  regarding gear.  There  are other                                                               
tools in place that control the  amount of fish caught by any one                                                               
boat, he pointed out.                                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO   discussed  the   need  to  be   aware  of                                                               
unintended consequences.  He related  his belief that the problem                                                               
is [a  combination of] the lack  of dollars for pink  salmon, the                                                               
number of  salmon caught, and  the ability to market  them rather                                                               
than the  length of the  seine.   Changing the rules  impacts who                                                               
comes  and stays,  he said.   Representative  Gatto concluded  by                                                               
expressing the  need for hard  evidence supporting the  need [for                                                               
this legislation]; he asked if such information is available.                                                                   
MR.  BARRY  responded  that  he  didn't  have  that  information.                                                               
However,  he  reiterated that  the  Board  of Fisheries  has  the                                                               
authority to regulate the size  of every other commercial fishing                                                               
boat in the  state and this is the only  [one of two] regulations                                                               
enshrined in statute.  This  legislation, per the request of many                                                               
fishermen in  the state, allows  the Board of  Fisheries, through                                                               
its wisdom,  to make  available some options  to fishermen.   "If                                                               
they share  your concerns, they're  not going to  do it.   And if                                                               
they hear  from a  lot of  people around the  state ...  who also                                                               
share your concerns, they won't do it," he related.                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO pointed out  that the current statute merely                                                               
limits the  length to 58  feet and thus  there can be  boats that                                                               
are shorter.                                                                                                                    
MR. BARRY agreed.                                                                                                               
Number 0940                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIR MASEK  highlighted that this legislation  doesn't remove                                                               
the  58-foot  length  limit;  rather it  provides  the  Board  of                                                               
Fisheries  the authority  to  go through  the  normal process  to                                                               
consider a change in the length  limit.  She pointed out that the                                                               
committee  packet contains  a letter  from  Scott McAllister,  an                                                               
Alaska purse  seiner.   In his  letter, Mr.  McAllister specifies                                                               
that  this legislation  would improve  the quality  of fresh  and                                                               
frozen salmon  products.  The  aforementioned is  fairly valuable                                                               
to fishermen.                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE WOLF  noted that he shares  Representative Gatto's                                                               
concerns.   Furthermore,  Representative  Wolf expressed  concern                                                               
with  regard to  trusting  the  Board of  Fisheries  and thus  he                                                               
wanted to research this issue a bit more.                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG  surmised that  the reason for  this is                                                               
to allow more on-board processing and product enhancements.                                                                     
MR. BARRY  said he believes that  to be the main  impetus for the                                                               
legislation.    He recalled  Mr.  McAllister's  testimony in  the                                                               
House Special Committee  on Fisheries which related  that with an                                                               
extra  10 to  15 feet  he would  do on-board  processing and  add                                                               
value to his product.                                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE  GUTTENBERG  related  his understanding  that  the                                                               
Department  of Environmental  Conservation  (DEC)  has a  65-foot                                                               
length   limit  for   food  processing   regulations,  which   he                                                               
characterized  as  large  processor   type  regulations.    Those                                                               
vessels under  65 feet have  minimal regulations.   Therefore, he                                                               
questioned whether  this legislation is doing  more than allowing                                                               
the boat length  limit to increase by seven feet  or will changes                                                               
in DEC regulations be sought.                                                                                                   
MR. BARRY  assumed that  such a discussion  would occur  with the                                                               
Board of Fisheries  when there is a request to  change the length                                                               
Number 1202                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  STEPOVICH noted  his observation  that there  are                                                               
more resident permits  than nonresident permits.   He inquired as                                                               
to who brought these concerns to Representative Williams.                                                                       
MR.  BARRY  explained  that this  legislation  came  through  the                                                               
process of the Joint Legislative  Salmon Industry Task Force.  He                                                               
noted that the  issue has been around a while  and it's primarily                                                               
being  pushed  by Alaskan  fishermen.    In further  response  to                                                               
Representative  Stepovich, Mr.  Barry  explained  that the  Joint                                                               
Legislative Salmon  Industry Task  Force was set  up a  couple of                                                               
years ago by the legislature.   It was a cooperative venture with                                                               
folks  in the  industry in  order to  develop innovative  ways to                                                               
help Alaska's salmon fisheries.                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE   STEPOVICH   surmised   then   that   the   Joint                                                               
Legislative  Salmon  Industry  Task   Force  was  established  to                                                               
enhance  the capabilities  "for the  state to  have a  better ...                                                               
gross on the fishing."  However,  it doesn't mean that there will                                                               
be  more fish  [caught] rather  it means  that "they"  will do  a                                                               
better job.                                                                                                                     
MR. BARRY noted his agreement.                                                                                                  
Number 1334                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  HEINZE commented  that  since this  is a  request                                                               
from  the  Joint  Legislative  Salmon  Industry  Task  Force,  it                                                               
carries  a  lot   of  weight.    She  recalled   that  when  this                                                               
legislation  was   heard  in  the  House   Special  Committee  on                                                               
Fisheries it  was clear  that the extra  feet would  provide room                                                               
for  processing,  which  she  viewed  as at  the  heart  of  this                                                               
legislation.   Therefore, it's important  to keep focused  on the                                                               
aforementioned, the processing on board.                                                                                        
MR. BARRY replied yes.                                                                                                          
Number 1427                                                                                                                     
HERMAN  M. MEINERS,  JR., purse  seiner,  informed the  committee                                                               
that he has been fishing in  Alaska since 1967.  Mr. Meiners said                                                               
that he supports changing the  58-foot length limit so that there                                                               
can be larger  vessels and thus processing could be  added to the                                                               
equation.   The length change would  provide a tool by  which the                                                               
[fishermen]  could work  toward  making more  money.   Currently,                                                               
it's difficult  to do one single  fishery and make a  living.  He                                                               
noted that  this would help  his operation because it  would help                                                               
sell  the  old  boats,  expand the  markets,  and  probably  help                                                               
"things get  rolling."   Mr. Meiners  mentioned that  he provided                                                               
lengthy testimony  in the [House Special  Committee on Fisheries]                                                               
meeting.  However, he highlighted that  no matter the size of the                                                               
boat,  the  gear  limitations  don't  change.    "Every  area  is                                                               
restricted  by its  gear,"  he  said.   In  response to  Co-Chair                                                               
Masek,  Mr.  Meiners said  that  he  has  an  S01K.   In  further                                                               
response to Co-Chair Masek, Mr.  Meiners said that an SO1K2 could                                                               
be the  set net  permit.   He noted  that he  also has  a gillnet                                                               
permit in Southeast Alaska.                                                                                                     
Number 1613                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE   KERTTULA  asked   if   this  legislation   would                                                               
potentially help in managing [fish processing] better.                                                                          
MR. MEINERS replied  yes, noting that with  the volume fisheries,                                                               
such as  the humpies, there could  be an increase in  price.  The                                                               
whole  idea is  quality.   Mr. Meiners  explained that  what will                                                               
occur is one  will cut down the volume of  fish caught because it                                                               
will take  a long  time to  process the fish.   However,  the end                                                               
result could be more money.                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE  recalled Mr.  Meiners' testimony  from the                                                               
[House  Special  Committee  on Fisheries]  meeting  in  which  he                                                               
mentioned the  smallness of the  boat and that as  permit holders                                                               
age, the cramped quarters are becoming more difficult.                                                                          
MR. MEINERS agreed.                                                                                                             
Number 1716                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE STEPOVICH  commented that the price  of permits is                                                               
in the  state's interest,  noting that the  price of  permits has                                                               
declined.    Therefore,  he asked  if  [this  legislation]  could                                                               
result in increasing the price of permits.                                                                                      
MR. MEINERS replied yes.                                                                                                        
CO-CHAIR MASEK, upon  determining no one else  wished to testify,                                                               
closed public testimony.                                                                                                        
Number 1807                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  HEINZE  moved  to  report CSHB  409(FSH)  out  of                                                               
committee  with individual  recommendations and  the accompanying                                                               
fiscal notes.  There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                     

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