Legislature(1995 - 1996)

04/29/1996 03:42 PM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  brought CSHB 538(2d FSH) before the committee as the         
 next order of business.                                                       
  REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN  said he introduced HB 538 as a result of           
 discussions with fishermen, the Department of Fish & Game and the             
 Limited Entry Commission.                                                     
 Representative Austerman said the Bering Sea hair crab fisheries is           
 a very delicate and rather small fishery in the Bering Sea that               
 first started back in about 1980, ran for a couple of years, and              
 then crashed because of over-fishing.  It started up again in about           
 1990, but with the way the other crab fisheries are going out in              
 the Bering Sea, there is more and more of a concentrated effort on            
 the Korean hair crab.  It has become apparent that because of the             
 small fishery that it is and hair crab being such a delicate crab             
 itself, that a moratorium should be placed on this fishery until              
 Fish & Game has a chance to take a hard look at it to see if it               
 needs to be limited on the number of boats that are operating out             
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  asked if there has been any opposition to the                
 legislation.   REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN  acknowledged there was some          
 opposition from some of the small fishing boats in the Bering Sea             
 and the St. Paul-St. George area.  The legislation was then amended           
 to allow smaller vessels to be involved.                                      
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  asked if the legislation disallows larger vessels            
 from being involved.   REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN  replied that within          
 five miles of the shore, a vessel may not be longer than 58 feet,             
 but it does not disallow larger vessels outside that five-mile                
  REPRESENTATIVE AUSTERMAN  pointed out that the legislation provides          
 that the moratorium will be repealed on July 1, 2000.  During the             
 moratorium period, these are interim permits that are non-                    
 transferrable and with no value to them.  He said it has been                 
 suggested to the Limited Entry Commission that they take a look at            
 setting up a system that if they do limited entry, they make them             
 non-transferrable permits that could possibly be returned to the              
 state and then given out either through some type of an auction, or           
 all allocation, or a drawing of some kind, so that we're not really           
 getting into giving away the state resources.                                 
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  opened the hearing on HB 538 to public comment.              
 Number 279                                                                    
  GORDON BLUE , testifying from Sitka, stated he shares the ownership          
 of two vessels that are in the Bering Sea crab fisheries and also             
 engaged in the Korean hair crab fishery around St. Paul Island.               
 The partners in the vessels include TDX Corporation, which is the             
 village corporation for St. Paul, and the Central Bering Sea                  
 Fishermen's Corporation, which is a subsidiary of Central Bering              
 Sea Fishermen's Association, a community development group for St.            
 Paul Island.                                                                  
 Mr. Blue said they helped to restart the fishery in 1990, as well             
 as helping to develop a special gear tact that's now in the                   
 regulations that is designed to limit by-catch and other kinds of             
 crab, and to run a clean fishery for hair crab in this area.  They            
 have developed techniques to try to handle these animals as little            
 as possible and as delicately as possible in the conditions that              
 are out there.                                                                
 He noted the Bering Sea red king crab fishery in Bristol Bay has              
 been closed for the last two seasons, it will probably be closed              
 again this year, and possibly for years in the future according to            
 the Department of Fish & Game.  This has resulted in going from a             
 pioneering effort of two vessels to a total of 18 vessels last                
 year.  He said they have been told that if this progression                   
 continues, the Department of Fish & Game will close the fishery,              
 deeming it unmanageable with the kind of effort that's near                   
 doubling every year.  If the red king crab fishery is closed again            
 this year and they don't have some sort of protection, they                   
 probably won't have a fishery at all.                                         
 Mr. Blue stressed the fishery has been vital to their business plan           
 for the small boats and the relatively small crab boats that they             
 are operating in that area.  These are 100 foot boats so they are             
 not the same small boats that were also included in the bill under            
 the five-mile language.  The intent there was to allow community              
 members in the partnership to try to operate within the shelter and           
 lee of the islands and take some of the crab that is near shore.              
 Concluding his testimony, Mr. Blue said he has a lot of hope that             
 this bill will do what it sets out to do, which is to shelter the             
 existing fleet, to prevent the fishery from being decimated by too            
 much effort, or alternatively, from losing all economic benefit and           
 having the fishery closed, and to just give a little breathing room           
 for a program to be fully developed.                                          
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  asked Mr. Blue if he supports the bill as currently          
 written.   MR. BLUE  answered that he does.                                   
  JOHN WINTHER,  a resident of Petersburg testifying from Anchorage in         
 support of CSHB 536(2d FSH), stated he has been involved in the               
 Bering Sea crab fishery since 1973.                                           
 Mr. Winther pointed out that the hair crab fishery is one of the              
 few fisheries in that area totally managed by the state of Alaska.            
 Most of them are managed through the federal system or the North              
 Pacific Fisheries Management Council.  This is why the fishermen              
 came to the Legislature asking for help to implement a moratorium.            
 Because it is state managed, it's one of the few fisheries that's             
 not included in the current moratorium in the Bering Sea.                     
 Mr. Winther said he thinks the level of effort right now is as much           
 as the fishery can sustain.  The quotas are roughly 1.5 million to            
 2 million pounds a year, the stocks seem fairly healthy, and the              
 harvest looks like it can sustain that level.  He urged passage of            
 the legislation so that the fishermen can work with the Commercial            
 Fisheries Entry Commission to get something into place that will              
 benefit those already involved in the fishery.  He also noted that            
 probably 75 percent of the harvest is being done by Seattle boats.            
  FRANK HOMAN,  Commissioner, Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission,           
 said the Commission has been working with the sponsor and the                 
 fishermen in the development of the moratorium legislation since              
 late last year when they were petitioned to investigate limited               
 entry for the hair crab fishery.  The current system, which is a              
 individual license program, didn't fit the type of fishery that's             
 in the Bering Sea, which is larger boats that have relief skippers.           
 If they had gone ahead with their traditional system that's in                
 place, it would have allowed for eligibility from whatever skippers           
 had been on the vessels in the last four or five years, and that              
 would have substantially increased the numbers because some of them           
 have two or three different skippers.  So they were looking for               
 another management system under a moratorium or limited entry, and            
 HB 538 directs the commission to look at a vessel licensing system            
 while providing a moratorium for up to four years.                            
 Mr. Homan pointed out that the bill calls for a five-mile offshore            
 boundary and the moratorium would start at that point.  The inshore           
 would be open to small boats, and the idea around that was to                 
 protect an area for some of the local fishermen on some of the                
 resource there.  Page 3, lines 2-5, allows the Commission to                  
 establish administrative areas for the fishery.  He said within               
 Fish & Game there are statistical areas that are used for                     
 reporting, and one of them is a three-mile radius around the                  
 islands of St. Paul and St. George.  It would be the Commission's             
 intention to extend that by another two miles and call that the               
 administrative area so that the moratorium would apply outside of             
 that five miles.                                                              
 There being no further testimony on CSHB 538(2d FSH),  CHAIRMAN               
 LEMAN  closed the public hearing and stated the bill would be set             
 aside until a quorum was established.                                         
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  brought CSHB 538(2d FSH) back before the committee,          
 and asked for the pleasure of the committee.                                  
  SENATOR TAYLOR  moved CSHB 538(2d FSH) be passed out of committee            
 with individual recommendations.  Hearing no objection, it was so             

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