Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/16/2004 03:36 PM Senate RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 409-SEINE VESSEL LENGTH CHAIR SCOTT OGAN announced HB 409 to be up for consideration. SENATOR THOMAS WAGONER wanted to let the committee know about the concerns of the United Cook Inlet Drift Association (UCIDA), which asked to have its statement read into the record. The following are some of the issues that UCIDA has with this legislation: 1. The upper size limit - Is this going to be open- ended? [If] seiners get larger, 70 - 80 ft., the hold also gets larger. The larger the vessel, the easier they can fish in rougher waters. How much larger and longer are they going to get? 2. The potential for a super seiner to intercept fish bound for other areas increases with their size increases. Right now they can fish the capes off of Kodiak and have the ability to fish in quite rough water and intercept a lot of the fish bound for Cook Inlet and even into the upper Cook Inlet. 3. The Board of Fish should take into account all related seine regulations at the same time new seine boat lengths are under consideration. 4. They didn't want to ever see the Board of Fish start considering drum seiners. They are pretty efficient when it comes to not only seining fish, but seining just about every fish. 5. They feel it would be necessary to have guideline harvest limits placed on these seiners to prevent interception of salmon bound for other regions. CHAIR OGAN said he shared some of those same concerns. He didn't know how long a seiner could get and alluded to a 200-footer. SENATOR WAGONER said that includes two helicopters. CHAIR OGAN said he heard the justification for changing the seine boat length was that fishermen wanted to do more processing to enhance fish quality and things like that, which he didn't have a problem with. But he did have a problem with super seiners that would go out and literally scoop everything up. SENATOR BEN STEVENS noted that super seiners operate in blue water, sometimes 100 miles offshore. Finfish rules prevent harvest of salmon outside of territorial waters. The reality of a large vessel like that operating in Alaska is not in the realm. He has no objection to the bill and said it is well thought out. SENATOR SEEKINS added his concern, which is that the Board of Fish process, while it is a process, is not democratic. A petition gets the issue before the board and only certain people can testify before it. The guy with less resources and less time who is busy feeding his family at the time can't get to the meeting, wherever it may be and he may be left behind. CHAIR OGAN asked the sponsor's staff if he would be amenable to putting more parameters on the seiner length. MR. TIM BARRY, staff to Representative Bill Williams, said the Salmon Task Force suggested this measure. What authority the Board of Fisheries should have has been discussed. The main reason this came out is because it is the only length limit that is statutory. He didn't think the bill's sponsor would feel comfortable amending this legislation, but he would accept any guidance the legislature could give to the board. SENATOR SEEKINS said he believes the allocative process should be a legislative process, not administrative. The legislature has given to the Board of Fisheries a huge burden in deciding most boat lengths. In that respect, his concern is that the boat length could change at the expense of some other fishery. CHAIR OGAN said that enough concern had been expressed that he wanted to hold the bill over. SENATOR DYSON said he thought it was bizarre for any legislative body to be designing boats. "I have confidence that the board would do good work and if they stray off the reservation, they will make a course correction after a while...." SENATOR BEN STEVENS said this is one of the first suggestions that came forth from a certain sector of the industry in the first year of the task force. It has had a considerable amount of discussion and deliberation. It was originally put in place to prevent large seiners coming up from the Lower 48 and going to multiple fishery areas, because the bigger vessel had the ability to travel a distance around the state to fish.... As a result of this law, [there] was a single area registration for the vessel so that the larger vessel couldn't move from one part of the state to the other. We just said if you're going to fish in one area, that's where you're going to fish that boat. We still have the single area registration for the vessel. We did do a piece that said you can be an individual and move from one fishery to the next, but you can't take your boat... This law has been on the books since statehood and it's never been modified; it's never been changed. A lot of us have a concern about it.