Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/02/2003 03:35 PM Senate RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
           SJR 12-SUPPORTING HALIBUT BYCATCH PROJECT                                                                        
SENATOR GARY  STEVENS, sponsor  of SJR  12, explained  to members                                                               
that he introduced  this resolution at the request  of the Alaska                                                               
Food  Coalition. SJR  12 is  a  plan to  support the  Coalition's                                                               
request to  the National Marine  Fisheries Service (NMFS)  to use                                                               
halibut  by-catch for  the Coalition's  food bank.  This plan  is                                                               
remarkable in  that fishermen and processors  stepped forward and                                                               
offered to provide community service  for no personal benefit. He                                                               
explained  that trawl  fishermen  are  currently prohibited  from                                                               
keeping  halibut caught  accidentally in  the course  of catching                                                               
pollock. The fishermen are required,  by federal law, to dump the                                                               
halibut  by-catch  back into  the  sea.  Certain processors  have                                                               
indicated a  willingness to process  that halibut by-catch  at no                                                               
charge and provide it for charitable uses.                                                                                      
SENATOR GARY STEVENS  told members the Alaska  Food Coalition has                                                               
the funds available  to freeze, store and  transport this halibut                                                               
to many  parts of Alaska. If  SJR 12 passes, the  resolution will                                                               
be sent  to the NMFS  and the North Pacific  Fisheries Management                                                               
Council (NPFMC). The Coalition has  applied to those agencies for                                                               
a prohibited species donation permit  to use halibut by-catch. He                                                               
pointed out that vessels must  have an official observer on board                                                               
to participate in this program.                                                                                                 
SENATOR GARY  STEVENS told  members he  has a  proposed amendment                                                               
that  was requested  by the  industry. SJR  12 contains  the word                                                               
"wasted." The industry would prefer  not to use that word because                                                               
it  implies that  fishermen are  wasting the  fish when  they are                                                               
required  by law  to dump  it back  into the  sea. The  amendment                                                               
replaces the word "wasted" with "at sea discarded".                                                                             
SENATOR ELTON asked how many halibut survive.                                                                                   
SENATOR GARY STEVENS  said he believes most are dead  by the time                                                               
they are brought aboard.                                                                                                        
SENATOR ELTON questioned whether the  first resolve clause of SJR
12 should  specify halibut by-catch  that has expired  to clarify                                                               
that any live halibut are tossed back into the sea.                                                                             
SENATOR BEN STEVENS  told members that fishermen  are not allowed                                                               
to keep halibut by-catch without  the prohibited species donation                                                               
permit  so a  small longliner  vessel without  an observer  would                                                               
have to discard by-catch at sea.                                                                                                
SENATOR  ELTON said  he assumes  the point  of the  first resolve                                                               
clause is  that live  halibut must  be thrown  back and  not kept                                                               
just because it could be donated to the food bank.                                                                              
SENATOR BEN STEVENS  said he believes the operators  will have to                                                               
use discretion and  that most operators would  throw the by-catch                                                               
overboard if there is any chance of survival.                                                                                   
CHAIR OGAN asked if they are required to.                                                                                       
SENATOR BEN STEVENS said they  are required to throw the by-catch                                                               
back regardless of  whether it is dead or alive  unless they have                                                               
the permit.                                                                                                                     
SENATOR ELTON said he would like  to see the first resolve clause                                                               
clarify that  live halibut cannot be  kept to donate to  the food                                                               
bank program.                                                                                                                   
SENATOR BEN STEVENS  pointed out that the word "dead"  is used in                                                               
line 6. He  said he understands Senator Elton's point,  but it is                                                               
illegal to keep any halibut without a permit.                                                                                   
CHAIR OGAN  asked if  a fisherman  with a  permit is  required to                                                               
throw back live halibut.                                                                                                        
SENATOR BEN STEVENS said the  prohibited species donation program                                                               
is only related to dead fish.                                                                                                   
SENATOR GARY STEVENS said it is not  the intent of SJR 12 to keep                                                               
live halibut.                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  SEEKINS  suggested  inserting  the  word  "dead"  before                                                               
"halibut" on page 1, line 16.                                                                                                   
SENATOR BEN  STEVENS suggested adding Senator  Seekins' suggested                                                               
language change to Amendment 1 when it is offered.                                                                              
SENATOR  SEEKINS  moved to  adopt  Amendment  1, which  reads  as                                                               
                      A M E N D M E N T  1                                                                                  
OFFERED IN SENATE RESOURCES                  BY SENATOR SEEKINS                                                                 
     TO: SJR 12, DRAFT VERSION A                                                                                                
     1. On page 1, line 6, after "halibut" delete "wastefully"                                                                  
     2. On page 1, line 10, replace "wasted" with "at sea                                                                       
     3. On page 1, line 16, after "otherwise", replace "a                                                                       
     wasted" with "an unutilized"                                                                                               
     4. Renumber accordingly.                                                                                                   
SENATOR LINCOLN objected and asked  if Senator Seekins' suggested                                                               
language was included in Amendment 1.                                                                                           
CHAIR OGAN said it was not.                                                                                                     
SENATOR LINCOLN withdrew her objection.                                                                                         
SENATOR BEN STEVENS moved to amend Amendment 1 by adding:                                                                       
     On page 1, line 16, insert "dead" between "the" and                                                                        
SENATOR GARY STEVENS suggested the  words "recently deceased" but                                                               
concurred with the amended amendment.                                                                                           
SENATOR  LINCOLN  objected  because   she  planned  to  offer  an                                                               
amendment  as well  and  was  not sure  whether  to  offer it  as                                                               
another amendment to Amendment 1.                                                                                               
CHAIR OGAN asked Senator Lincoln  if her amendment had any affect                                                               
on Amendment 1.                                                                                                                 
SENATOR LINCOLN said it did not.                                                                                                
CHAIR OGAN asked her to offer it separately.                                                                                    
SENATOR LINCOLN removed her objection.                                                                                          
CHAIR  OGAN  announced  the  motion to  adopt  the  amendment  to                                                               
Amendment 1 carried.                                                                                                            
SENATOR  LINCOLN   noted  that  Senator  Gary   Stevens'  sponsor                                                               
statement says  that SJR 12  will only apply to  halibut by-catch                                                               
on vessels  with observers but  she does not see  that limitation                                                               
anywhere in  the resolution. She  asked if that is  a requirement                                                               
of the prohibited species donation permit.                                                                                      
SENATOR  GARY STEVENS  explained that  a food  bank from  Seattle                                                               
currently  has a  prohibited species  donation permit  for Bering                                                               
Sea halibut.  No other agencies  have such a permit.  That permit                                                               
is only  for vessels with  observers. He believes that  NMFS will                                                               
ensure when it  offers a permit that the by-catch  must come from                                                               
vessels with observers.                                                                                                         
SENATOR LINCOLN  said she would  not be offering an  amendment in                                                               
that case.                                                                                                                      
SENATOR BEN  STEVENS pointed out that  the answer to both  of the                                                               
committee's questions  about the process  can be found on  page 3                                                               
of  a document  entitled,  "Prohibited  Species Donation  Program                                                               
Proposal  and  Application  of  the  Alaska  Food  Coalition"  in                                                               
members' packets.                                                                                                               
TAPE 03-21, SIDE B                                                                                                              
CHAIR OGAN asked how the fish will be distributed.                                                                              
SENATOR GARY STEVENS said the Kodiak  Food Bank is located at the                                                               
Kodiak  Baptist  Mission. When  people  come  in, the  food  bank                                                               
provides them with  halibut filets. The food bank  will also ship                                                               
the  halibut to  other communities  that want  them. He  said the                                                               
Alaska  Food Coalition  is a  statewide system.  He believes  the                                                               
fish  will be  processed  in  Kodiak because  that  is where  the                                                               
processors  who offered  to do  so are  located. However,  if the                                                               
program can be  moved to more communities, it would  be even more                                                               
CHAIR OGAN clarified that the  committee adopted the amendment to                                                               
Amendment 1 but not Amendment 1.  He asked if there was objection                                                               
to adopting Amendment 1 as  amended. There being none, CHAIR OGAN                                                               
announced that was adopted too.                                                                                                 
SENATOR SEEKINS  told members  he spoke  with the  Fairbanks Food                                                               
Bank earlier, which supports this  resolution. The Fairbanks Food                                                               
Bank will  be one of  the distribution points through  the Alaska                                                               
Food Coalition.                                                                                                                 
CHAIR OGAN  stated on a recent  visit he was very  impressed with                                                               
the kindness  of the  people and with  the processors  in Kodiak.                                                               
He then took public testimony.                                                                                                  
MR.  TREVOR  JONES,  representing   the  Alaska  Food  Coalition,                                                               
affirmed  that the  Coalition's  proposal  requires that  halibut                                                               
come  from vessels  with observers  only. He  said the  amendment                                                               
will  not  hurt the  resolution  at  all, however  "by-catch"  by                                                               
definition is dead fish. He offered to answer questions.                                                                        
MS.  SUSANNAH MORGAN,  Executive  Director of  the  Food Bank  of                                                               
Alaska and an officer in  the Alaska Food Coalition, told members                                                               
that the  Coalition has  a 15,000-foot  warehouse that  meets all                                                               
health  and  safety  codes  in   Anchorage.  The  fish  would  be                                                               
transported from Kodiak to Anchorage and distributed from there.                                                                
SISTER NOREEN,  St. Frances  House, a  food pantry  in Anchorage,                                                               
stated  support  for  SJR  12   and  thanked  members  for  their                                                               
consideration of the measure. She  said many of the people served                                                               
by the St. Frances House will benefit from this proposal.                                                                       
MS.  SARA  JACKSON,  program  manager   for  St.  Frances  House,                                                               
expressed her  appreciation to  Senator Gary  Stevens and  all of                                                               
the people who  are supporting SJR 12. She  said her organization                                                               
is  seeing  more  hungry  people  and  fewer  resources  so  this                                                               
resolution will be very helpful.                                                                                                
SENATOR WAGONER suggested asking NMFS  to permit this program for                                                               
two years  so that  legislation will not  be required  again next                                                               
SENATOR GARY STEVENS said the  resolution only states support for                                                               
the permit approval and that  the rest of the application process                                                               
is out of the legislature's hands.                                                                                              
There being  no further public  testimony, SENATOR  WAGONER moved                                                               
CSSJR 12(RES) from committee.                                                                                                   
SENATOR ELTON  objected to say  that he is  in awe of  the people                                                               
who are  behind this program.  He then removed his  objection and                                                               
the motion carried.                                                                                                             

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