Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/31/2004 01:05 PM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                

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