Legislature(2003 - 2004)
03/31/2004 01:05 PM House RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 309-PROHIBIT RELEASE OF PREDATORY FISH CO-CHAIR DAHLSTROM 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(FSH).] Number 1956 CO-CHAIR MASEK moved to adopt the proposed committee substitute (CS), labeled 23-LS1097\W, Utermohle, 3/23/04, as the work draft. There being no objection, Version W was before the committee. Number 1974 REPRESENTATIVE WOLF, speaking as sponsor, explained that HB 309 is a bill involving [nonindigenous] fish. He said Southcentral Alaska, including the Matanuska-Susitna Valley and the Kenai Peninsula, have been facing a problem concerning Northern Pike and other species, specifically, Yellow Perch. Representative Wolf said this bill would give more "teeth" to the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) to try to [discourage] people from using "bucket biology." He noted that the bill does not involve any commercial fishing activities that currently take place in Alaska. He said he believes ADF&G is in support of the bill. Number 2607 REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG asked about the difference between Version W and [CSHB 309(FSH)]. REPRESENTATIVE WOLF explained that concerns were expressed in the House Special Committee on Fisheries with respect to current commercial fisheries activities involving the transportation of live crab and [live crab] eggs. He said the [House Special Committee on Fisheries] made sure that current activities involving commercial fisheries in Alaska were not affected and amended the bill to include a felony fine of not less $1500. Number 2126 REPRESENTATIVE LYNN turned attention to page 1, line 10, and asked if a [nonindigenous] fish were caught, could it be released, even if it shouldn't be [in that water system] in the first place. REPRESENTATIVE WOLF said the bill does not involve catch-and- release fisheries. He indicated that the purpose of the bill is to address the transportation of [nonindigenous] fish from one area to another. REPRESENTATIVE LYNN asked if a [nonindigenous] fish could be released in the same water it was caught in. REPRESENTATIVE WOLF turned attention to page 1, [lines 4-6], and he said this does not prevent [participation] in a catch-and release fishery. Number 2212 DOUG VINCENT-LANG, Assistant Director, Division of Sport Fish, Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G), testified. Mr. Vincent-Lang said the [bill] would not hold a person eligible for a class C felony and a $1500 fine for releasing a [nonindigenous] fish that had been caught inadvertently. He said the bill is basically crafted to prevent people from stocking [nonindigenous fish] initially. REPRESENTATIVE LYNN asked Mr. Vincent-Lang to explain [page 1], line 10. MR. VINCENT-LANG explained, for example, if an individual caught a [nonindigenous] pike in Sand Lake and released it back into that lake, that individual would be excluded from this law and would not be held accountable for releasing the fish caught in that lake. REPRESENTATIVE LYNN asked if it would apply even though the [nonindigenous fish] shouldn't be there to begin with, [and by not releasing the nonindigenous fish back into the water in which it were caught] would be helping to clear the lake out of that [species of nonindigenous] fish. MR. VINCENT-LANG said [ADF&G] could have regulations to help clear the lake out [if desired], but it would exclude those anglers from being penalized. Number 2279 REPRESENTATIVE WOLF directed attention to page 1, [lines 8-11], and he said this does not apply to catch-and-release fisheries. REPRESENTATIVE STEPOVICH suggested that language on [page 1], line 12, contradicts language in subsection (b), with regard to "ornamental fish". He asked for an example of an ornamental fish. REPRESENTATIVE WOLF explained that ornamental fish include tetras, goldfish, guppies, and so forth. MR. VINCENT-LANG explained that his understanding is that [paragraph (1)] basically excludes ornamental fish from subsection (a), while [subsection (b)] goes on to say a person may not knowingly rear or release live ornamental fish in state waters. He said gar, for example, are fully capable of reproducing in Anchorage area lakes, and [ADF&G] does not want somebody releasing their pet gar into an Anchorage lake or rearing those gar in a pond in their back yard. Mr. Vincent- Lang said [ornamental fish] that are possessed and transported for the purpose of keeping in an aquarium should be excluded from a class C felony. He said [ornamental fish] can be predatory or can carry diseases, which may be a threat to native species. REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA said Representative Stepovich raises a good point, and because it is a criminal statute it becomes even more important. She said she thought there might be some confusion between [subsections] (a) and (b), because [subsection] (a) exempts ornamental fish from being knowingly released, while [subsection] (b) says [ornamental fish] may not knowingly be released, and [subsection] (c) is a class C felony. She asked how it all works together. MR. VINCENT-LANG said his understanding is that [subsection (b)] is specific about the activities that can't be done with ornamental fish, and he indicated the language could possibly be cleaned up so that only [one section] deals with ornamental fish. He said [ADF&G] didn't want people to be rearing or releasing ornamental fish in bodies of water that could potentially cause damage to native fish or release parasites. REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA said she thought it had to be changed because subsection (a) clearly allows the release of ornamental fish. She said she thought a defense attorney, in representing a client, would "walk through that," so it needs to be changed so it is clear that ornamental fish cannot be released. Representative Kerttula asked why [a violation] is a class C felony, and if other states punish it this harshly. She asked why it is just "knowingly", rather than having an "intentional state of mind," and suggested, "If it is going to be a felony, shouldn't it an intentional action instead of it just a knowing action." MR. VINCENT-LANG said [ADF&G] is very concerned about the release of [nonindigenous] fish and the impact on the resources of Alaska. He said the level of penalty setting is [the legislature's] jurisdiction and responsibility. REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA asked what other state's penalties are for the release of nonindigenous fish. She said she knows it's serious, but she thought a class C felony is normally used for a fairly serious assault. REPRESENTATIVE WOLF said a lake on the Kenai Peninsula was knowingly deposited with Yellow Perch, and it cost [ADF&G] about $40,000 to exterminate the lake with Rotenone. He said the [Yellow Perch] have now moved into the Moose River, a spawning system for coho salmon. He said [coho salmon] are part of a sport fishery, which directly affects the guiding industry, which affects people's lives. Number 2594 REPRESENTATIVE GATTO offered some examples of other offenses punishable by a class C felony, as follows: Unlawful furnishing of explosives; possession of child pornography; incest; sexual assault in the third degree; tampering with a witness; endangering the welfare of a child; sexual abuse of a minor; and assault. He said he has a problem with the introduction of a [nonindigenous] fish being equal to all of those absolutely notorious indications of what qualify as a class C felony. He said he thinks if this goes to court, it is an overreach. REPRESENTATIVE STEPOVICH offered an example of a child unintentionally releasing a goldfish into Alaskan waters, and he expressed concerns about [the bill] applying to minors or someone without "expertise." REPRESENTATIVE WOLF noted that some of the points raised had not been considered previously. He said some other members had suggested that the bill be referred to the House Judiciary Standing Committee with regard to the class C felony. Number 2726 CO-CHAIR DAHLSTROM suggested Representative Wolf's intent was good, and she said these [issues] are taken very seriously. MR. VINCENT-LANG said ADF&G supports the concepts behind this bill and see it as an increasing problem across Alaska. He said the problem can't be dealt with on a "recover basis" and has to be dealt with on a "preventative basis." He noted that a conceptual amendment had been passed previously that dealt with lines 3 and 13. He said [ADF&G] is not opposed to limiting [subparagraph] (3) to saltwater commercial fishing and could not think of any instances in which commercial fishermen are currently moving live fish around or of instances in which it would be good [to do so]. CO-CHAIR DAHLSTROM asked Representative Wolf to take that into consideration while working with the bill. Co-Chair Dahlstrom said [the committee] does realize the seriousness of this and appreciates the department's support. [HB 309 was held over.] The gavel was passed to Co-Chair Masek.