Legislature(2003 - 2004)
02/02/2004 03:30 PM Senate RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 98-SPORT FISHING SEASONS FOR YOUTH CHAIR SCOTT OGAN announced HB 98 to be up for consideration. REPRESENTATIVE RALPH SAMUELS, sponsor, said HB 98 would allow the Board of Fisheries to open a fishery for youth [16 years and under] only. Presently, the only way participation in a fishery can be limited is to designate it for "seniors only." Last session, a "take your son or daughter hunting day" was established and this measure is similar to that. He noted that Campbell Creek [an urban area in his Anchorage district] has a very small run of King salmon that could be used for this purpose. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) does not want to open it up to just everyone. He had not heard of any opposition to this bill and stated that ADF&G, the Board of Fisheries, and the Alaska Outdoor Council support it. He pointed out that HB 98 doesn't mandate anything, but simply makes the proposal available. SENATOR THOMAS WAGONER said he knows of an aquaculture association that had to destroy a lot of red salmon smolt and he suggested in the future putting smolts into some lakes without outlets and restricting them to fishing by young people only. SENATOR KIM ELTON pointed out that language on page 1 limits fishing for youth to sport fishing, which is not exactly the same language as that used for 60 and older, which says, "to participate in sport, personal use or subsistence fishing." He asked what the reasoning was behind that. REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS explained that 16 year olds currently don't need a fishing license and he didn't want to complicate the issue. Furthermore, he was just aiming at a recreational activity rather than filling the freezer. SENATOR GEORGIANNA LINCOLN noted that some small communities in her district would benefit from this program even though they are not considered urban and clarified that this measure would apply statewide. REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS responded that it is open to anyone in the state who wants to take a proposal to the Board of Fisheries. CHAIR OGAN tried to come up with a way someone could scam the proposal. REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS helped by saying the only thing he came up with is that people might cheat on their age, but added that they might do that now, anyway. SENATOR SEEKINS relayed that some people have traditionally hunted along a certain Alaskan river and can't do it now because of the heavy traffic associated with youth hunters from places as far away as Kodiak. He wondered if a family with four kids could have any potential conflicts with traditional users that might "boil over" with designated youth fishing. REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS replied that unlike hunting, which can be limited by the number of moose or caribou in a district, fishing could be limited to a number of hours. If there were conflicts or people taking advantage of the situation, the Board could discontinue the program. He thought the advantages of the program outweigh any possible downside, particularly with fishing [as opposed to hunting]. SENATOR WAGONER noted that the term "snagging fish" does not involve good sportsmanship and emphasized, "The last thing I want to see is setting up a snagging area..." MR. BOB BENTZ, Deputy Director, Division of Sport Fish, Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G), supported HB 98 and said it has a zero fiscal note. Kids under 16 years currently don't have to buy a license and this bill would set up separate fishing times and areas for kids only. It does not allow the board to modify methods and means or alter existing bag and possession limits. He assured the committee that the department would stop any abuses that could arise by closing the area and submitting a proposal to the Board of Fisheries to repeal that regulation. CHAIR OGAN asked him where he would recommend the board create a special opening or area. MR. BENTZ replied that the department would wait for the public to come forward with proposals to the board, which they have done almost every year. From a conservation standpoint, he would try to funnel the times and areas to stocked waters. He did not envision using waters with wild stocks, especially where conservation concerns already exist. SENATOR ELTON asked what time period the board would consider Interior fisheries issues in case the regulations need to be repealed. MR. BENTZ explained that normally the board takes up any one area of the state every three years. However, an "Agenda Change Request" could be filed by anyone to take up a specific issue out of cycle and biological problems are high on their list of exceptions. An area could be closed with an emergency order by ADF&G, as well. SENATOR ELTON asked how the department would deal with a proposed regulation for an under-16 youth King salmon derby because King salmon are on a quota system and are allocated, as well, between the sport and commercial fisheries. In Southeast Alaska, two out of every three King salmon that are caught on sport gear are caught by non-residents. He also asked if the catch is further divided by a derby situation, would the department recommend that is not a good idea. MR. BENTZ responded under that scenario, the department would come up with its best estimate of what participation levels might occur and what the harvest might be and present those figures to the Board of Fisheries. The department would also point out allocation impacts that could occur, but the board would make the final decision. SENATOR SEEKINS asked if he would suggest an area for youth fishing in an already heavily used area. MR. BENTZ replied no, but that would be a criterion that the board would identify immediately. SENATOR SEEKINS asked him which areas submitted proposals with concerns about crowded fishing conditions. MR. BENTZ replied Ship Creek in downtown Anchorage [indisc.]. CHAIR OGAN closed discussion on HB 98. SENATOR WAGONER moved to pass HB 98 from committee with individual recommendations and a zero fiscal note. There were no objections and it was so ordered.