Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/29/1996 08:08 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE BILL NO. 265 An Act relating to receipts of commercial fisheries test fishing operations; and providing for an effective date. Co-chairman Halford directed that SB 265 be brought on for discussion. Senator Zharoff explained that he introduced the bill to enhance Dept. of Fish and Game ability to successfully manage the changing nature of Alaska's complex fisheries. It will form part of the management scheme to utilize private sector vessels, gear, and expertise to conduct test fisheries. Funds derived from these test fisheries will accrue as designated program receipts. The bill does not impact the legislature's ability to appropriate, but it streamlines the process in conducting test fisheries. A number of test fisheries have been proposed, but the department has not, in the past, had the flexibility nor the resources to follow through. Senator Zharoff asked that department staff speak to the specifics of the program. END: SFC-96, #59, Side 2 BEGIN: SFC-96, #60, Side 1 KEVIN BROOKS, Director, Division of Administrative Services, Dept. of Fish and Game, came before committee. He explained that the bill would reclassify approximately $2.2 million in program receipt authority that would not hereafter roll into departmental caps. As background information, Mr. Brooks noted that test fishery receipts in the current year were part of OMB's classification as designated program receipts because they are based on a contractual relationship. Proceeds from the sale of fish caught during a test fishery are used to pay for the boat chartered to conduct the fishery. Test fisheries have the potential to extend seasons or open new seasons. Attempts to develop the sea urchin fishery in Southeast was cited as an example. These efforts have been hampered because the department cannot ask for additional receipt authority "because it runs up against our caps and shows as an increase to the general fund." OMB took the first step in designating these program receipts. The proposed bill would remove those funds from general fund calculations. It does not cut dollars, it merely reclassifies them. The test fishery receipt program has been part of the department's management program since before statehood. Co-chairman Frank requested a comparison of the current flow of funds versus that contemplated by the proposed bill. Mr. Brooks explained that the department presently receives authority, through the legislative process, to receive and expend approximately $2.2 million in program receipts. That is in the base budget. Under the proposed bill, receipts would continue to flow through the general fund to be requested by the department and appropriated by the legislature. Moneys in excess of expenditures would flow as unrestricted revenue to the general fund. The only change is that the receipts would not roll into department general fund totals. These moneys would show as other funds. Senator Rieger referenced AS 37.05.146, which contains a list of exclusions from what flows through the general fund. It appears that these receipts are merely being added to the list. PAUL LARSON, Deputy Director for Fisheries, Division of Commercial Fisheries, explained that test fishery funds have been used to conduct research throughout the state. He cited use in Prince William Sound to identify pollack resources which had not previously been harvested because the department had no information on abundance. Contract with a local fisherman and sale of pollack caught during the test generated sufficient funds to assess pollack resources and conduct a new fishery in Prince William Sound. Senator Sharp asked if a test fish fund presently exists. Kevin Brooks explained that the proposed bill would not establish a separate fund. Test fishery moneys do not constitute designated funds in the same respect as the fish and game fund. There is currently a test fishery account. Discussion of potential for a sea urchin fishery followed. DEAN PADDOCK, Executive Director, Bristol Bay Driftnetters' Association, came before committee in support of the bill. He concurred in comments that the legislation would streamline department ability to manage. Mr. Paddock advised that he instituted the first state test fishery operation in 1960, based on a borrowed idea from the sockeye commission on the Fraser River. Management biologists need the information obtained through test fishing. Commercial fishermen in Bristol Bay greatly depend on test catches which precede openings. Management of resources in this area would not be as precise without the test fishery. In response to comments concerning the impact of reduced funding on fishery programs, Senator Sharp stressed that the budget for the division of commercial fisheries increased in FY 96 over what it was the previous year. Mr. Paddock attested to increasing complexities associated with effective management. Initial program budgets are not keeping pace with overall demands. Senator Sharp reiterated that while the division did not receive what it requested, it received more than the previous year. Comments followed by Mr. Paddock regarding smolt out- migration on the Egegik River. Senator Zharoff noted a request from Co-chairman Frank that he be allowed a day in which to review the bill. Co- chairman Halford voiced support for the legislation and advised that it would be again taken up at the next bill session.