Legislature(2015 - 2016)BUTROVICH 205
04/01/2015 03:30 PM RESOURCES
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SB 42-PERSONAL USE FISHING PRIORITY 4:05:36 PM CHAIR GIESSEL announced consideration of SB 42. SENATOR BILL STOLTZE, sponsor of SB 42, Alaska State Legislature, Juneau, Alaska, said this measure has been called the Alaskans First Fisheries Act and it has been muted by the legislative process since 1999. He explained that there are two fisheries within Alaska that are for Alaska resident only: subsistence and personal use (PU). It is surprising how many people say personal use fisheries are an important part of Alaskans' food security, but SB 42 simply says in times of shortage, the Board of Fisheries can set a priority for average citizens that is reflected in the Alaska Constitution. He is excited that the ADF&G commissioner has a neutral position on SB 42, because if it was a bad bill, he would oppose it. Senator Stoltze said this only affects a small percentage of fish that are commonly owned by all Alaskans. It would not trump Pacific salmon treaties or Canadian agreements, and the board itself is trumped by other higher authorities within the department and international treaties all the way up to the federal government. SENATOR STOLTZE said this is not just about salmon; there are about 80 PU fisheries in the state, but the bulk of the contention has been in the Kasilof and Kenai Rivers. Some argue that people can buy their salmon at the store, but catching one's own salmon what an Alaskan values. 4:12:28 PM United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA) mentioned excessive use by some Alaskan families and it has been suggested to limit them to 10 per year, but that is not enough to share with family and friends, which is another Alaskan value. 4:13:52 PM CHAIR GIESSEL noted the many emails the committee had received on this issue and opened public testimony. 4:14:36 PM STEVE VANEK, representing himself, Ninilchik, Alaska, opposed SB 42. It is an innocent idea with unintended bad consequences. Like the book and movie called "Bridge Over the River Kwai," this is a situation in which a short term goal disguises a much larger long term evil. This bill has many long term consequences that affect ADF&G management, many that affect the board of Fisheries process and private businesses. 4:16:47 PM DAVID HILLSTRAND, representing himself, Homer, Alaska, opposed SB 42. He is a commercial fisherman in Upper Cook Inlet and is against personal use fisheries over commercial fishing. He supports personal use in rural areas that are defined by the federal government as subsistence areas. He explained that because of Alaska's continued population growth, especially since 1972 and Limited Entry, an allocation issue has arisen. Some people have applied the constitution's "common use" concept to all 700,000 residents receiving six fish a piece from the Kenai River. But in his view, limited entry is the way for the public to participate in common use; just like the oil, timber and mining industries have a chance to lease land. Once limited entry was created, participation was limited to a certain number of people and the way the public can participate in harvesting fish is by purchasing a limited entry permit. Courts have ruled against compensating fishermen for the limited entry process. 4:19:31 PM CLAY BEZENEK, representing himself, Ketchikan, Alaska, opposed SB 42. He is a coastal guy who survives on salmon and doesn't have the benefit of any other income in his community. If they are going to reallocate the resource, it should be reallocated in a way that benefits someone whose life isn't on the line because of it. "It's a cavalier regard for coastal economies." 4:23:17 PM ALEXIS COOPER, Cordova District Fishermen United (CDFU), Cordova, Alaska, opposed SB 42. Cordova is a small coastal community whose economy depends almost entirely on the commercial salmon industry. She said SB 42 doesn't represent all Alaskans or promote a sense of responsibility amongst all Alaskans to insure the sustainability of the salmon resource. She said Alaska has set the gold standard for sustainable fisheries by establishing a system where management decisions are based on the highest standards of scientific integrity, and that commitment maximizes opportunities that has afforded all Alaskans relatively unfettered access to the state's rich salmon resources and provides residents a multitude of options from which to choose to harvest or access salmon for their households. The subsistence, personal use, sport and commercial opportunities, are all vitally important in providing Alaska and its resident economic opportunity and food security. MS. COOPER said that SB 42 would establish a further priority in an already complex system of allocation and management for salmon, which already includes a resident only priority, and rather than uniting all Alaskans to ensure the sustainability of the salmon resource, SB 42 perpetuates a vision amongst residents at times of diminished run strengths when conservation most needs to be a collaborative effort. 4:25:19 PM GRANT KLOTZ, representing himself, Anchorage, Alaska, supported SB 42. As the population in Alaska grows, so does the demand on the Kenai fishery, he said, and this bill ensures that Alaska residents will have access to their fair share of this commonly owned fishery. Unfortunately, this pits commercial fishermen against personal use fishermen, but not having enough fish return to the rivers has been a long standing issue. 4:27:09 PM BRIAN MERRITT, representing himself, Wrangell, Alaska, opposed SB 42. This bill could tie the BOF's hands. He found some interesting information about the Copper River situation in 2013. In that 2013, 135,000 sockeye were caught by personal use fishermen, and most of them came out of urban areas like Fairbanks, Anchorage, Eielson Air Force Base, Delta Junction, and Eagle River. The personal use fishery enables rural residents to get the food they need for the winter, and they depend on ADF&G to control this resource through the Board of Fisheries process. 4:29:02 PM BOB LINVILLE, representing himself, Seward, Alaska, opposed SB 42. He had commercial and personal-use fished for several decades on the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers. He said the board had evolved over the years to include all personal use and sport fishing representation and asked if the legislature thought it could do that balanced analysis. He concluded saying that all users need to share in resource conservation. 4:31:26 PM CHUCK DERRICK, President, Chitina Dipnetters Association, Fairbanks, Alaska, supported SB 42. The association feels the best use of Alaska's food resources is to feed Alaskan families. He explained that prior to creation of the criteria that identified customary and traditional uses, the Chitina dipnetters were always managed as a subsistence fishery, but a clause about "local" turned the Chitina dipnet fishery into personal use. The clause was later ruled unconstitutional, but the dipnet fishery remained personal use. In 1999, they succeeded in convincing the BOF that the Chitina dipnet fishery did meet customary and traditional criteria. Then it got changed back to subsistence until 2002 when that decision was rescinded. MR. DERRICK stated that the board used to always be heavily weighted with commercial interests and Chitina dipnetters had never won a proposal that he could remember with that make up. But using their data, they were able to convince the 2014 board to increase the bag limit - the fist win he could remember. 4:34:11 PM RICHARD DAVIS, Seafood Producer's Cooperative (SPC), Juneau, Alaska, opposed SB 42. The SPC is the oldest and largest vertically integrated, entirely fisherman owned, harvesting, processing, and marketing association on the continent, he said. They began in 1944, and today 560 fishermen member owners process 10-15 million pounds of Alaskan seafood annually. The cooperative employs 30-140 people and paid $1 million to the State of Alaska in fisheries business taxes last year. He urged them to resist designating personal use fisheries a priority. SPC's experience is that personal use fisheries are designated because of limited quantities, or availability, or an excessive number of citizens vying for finite quantities of certain fish. "Personal use" to them means residents in possession of a sport fishing license, sometimes with a permit, involved in a harvest reserved for Alaskan residents only. If lawmakers feel compelled to favor personal use fisheries with a priority distinction and this legislation passes, he warned to expect other efforts by Alaskan citizens to use the legislature to manipulate the Board of Fisheries or make a priority for their particular pet fishery. 4:36:40 PM JOHN MCCOMBS, representing himself, Ninilchik, Alaska, opposed SB 42. He commented that currently the personal use fishery occurs before escapement takes place in front of the counters and it's never been closed. Expanding a fully allocated fishery - there are 80 PU fisheries statewide - has never been explained or rationalized. There are no guarantees in fishing. But when thoroughly scrutinized, the PU fishery has a priority based on management defaults and BOF reallocations. GARLAND BLANCHARD, representing himself, Homer, Alaska, opposed SB 42. He is a Cook Inlet fisherman and said that everyone agrees that all residents of this state are entitled to fish. But, he said, apparently no one on the board had ever been to a Kenai City Council meeting when they are trying to figure out the mess at the Kenai. First of all, according to the City Council, 17 percent of the fish caught on the Kenai River are by local people and 83 percent are caught by people from the Valley. According to ADF&G records, 8,000 permits were not returned from this fishery, so nobody has any idea of how many fish have been taken out of this fishery. Combined with the Copper River fishery, it's possible that over half a million sockeye are being taken. The issues that the Kenai Council hears are about people defecating in their backyards, people partying all night, piles of garbage and rotten carcasses, and zero enforcement because the Division of Parks doesn't have the authority to write any tickets. Troopers don't do anything, either. 4:40:21 PM MARTIN WEISER, Chief Development Officer, Copper River Seafoods, Anchorage, Alaska, opposed SB 42. "Calling this the Alaskans first fishing bill is misleading," he said. According to the Resource Development Council's most recent published statistics the revenues generated by the fishing industry in 2012 totaled more than $100 million in state and local taxes. And with the current fiscal challenges facing the state, Alaskans can't afford to reduce income to it. This industry pays for services that all Alaskans benefit from and actually provides a majority of Alaskans with their seafood. Copper River Seafoods does not support any single user group getting priority over any other. The ADF&G and BOF currently ensure fair allocation of the state's fisheries based on science and not politics, he said, but SB 42 will restrict their abilities to do so by prioritizing one single user group. He said the PU fisheries are healthy and no Alaskan is being limited in these fisheries as a result of commercial or sport fishing. MALCOLM VANCE, representing himself, McCarthy, Alaska, opposed SB 42. He had lived in McCarthy for 33 years and commercial fished for the past 35 years. He qualifies for both federal and state subsistence use and is also an avid sports fisherman. There is no good reason to put PU fishing above all other user groups. All harvesters should share the burden and responsibility of harvesting and conservation equally. The regulatory process that meets the needs and wants of all user groups is already being used. SB 42 is another way of creating chaos in the ever widening gap between the user groups. 4:44:33 PM GARY STEVENS, Alaska Outdoor Council (AOC), Chugiak, Alaska, strongly supported SB 42. He said a 2012 study by the ADF&G's Division of Subsistence found that recreational, PU fishing, subsistence and recreational hunting combined amounted to less than 2 percent of the total fish and game harvested in the State of Alaska. Commercial fishermen harvested over 98 percent of the total poundage of fish and game. He said 75 percent of residents live in non-subsistence areas and the PU fishery for all intents and purposes is a subsistence fishery for people that live in a non-subsistence area. If fish were returning to other streams in Cook Inlet the pressure could be spread out from the mouth of the Kenai River. Personal use should have a priority over commercial fishing. AL BARRETTE, representing himself, Fairbanks, Alaska, supported SB 42. All the statutory definitions that pertain to PU and subsistence and the intent language found in 5 AAC 77.01 make it clear that the PU fishery has a priority. PU was recognized in the days of rural priority, but the McDowell decision in 1989 removed that rural priority and made all Alaskans eligible to participate. Then the legislature and joint boards created the non-subsistence areas, which is a perfect fit for the PU fisheries now. PU fisheries are not only for dip nets, as he personally fishes with a gillnet in the Tanana River. MR. BARRETTE stated also that at least the PU fisheries are not subsidized by the state like the commercial fisheries are to the tune of $60 million. JULIANNE CURRY, Executive Director, United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA), Juneau, Alaska, opposed SB 42. UFA care about the sustainability of Alaska's fishing resources above all else. They have four primary concerns regarding SB 42. It unnecessarily pits Alaskans against Alaskans and further complicates fisheries management and BOF decisions. It does not establish reasonable expectations for the harvest of a fluctuating biomass nor does it ensure food security. She said most Alaskans don't have the time, resources, the access or the ability to harvest their own fish and the commercial harvesting sector provides them with critical access to the resource in fish markets, grocery stores and restaurants throughout the state. A PU priority would trump the existing sport and commercial fisheries that resident Alaskans use to help feed their families. MS. CURRY said that according to Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission (CFEC) data, Alaskans hold nearly 77 percent of all limited entry permits. This bill further complicates complex fisheries management plans and reduces flexibility. It creates a one-size fits all approach, whereas these type of allocation decisions are best left to the BOF that has the ability to take significant public and scientific input and make decisions on a fishery by fishery and region by region basis. Sustainability relies on the premise that resources have limits, and setting reasonable expectations help perpetuate users' commitment to sustainability, she said. Establishing a PU priority will not ensure that salmon run upstream on the weekend when most individuals choose to participate in the three most popular salmon dip net fisheries. 4:50:27 PM BRENT JOHNSON, representing himself, Clam Gulch, Alaska, opposed SB 42. He put in 49 seasons into the Cook Inlet set net fishery and the biggest difference he found between living in Chugiak and living in Clam Gulch is that nobody in Clam Gulch is in favor of this bill. The reason is that people in Clam Gulch fish in the summer and have to sustain themselves all year around to live there. Not one time between 1882 and 1982 was there a harvest of 3 million sockeye salmon in Cook Inlet, but since 1982, there has been 21 times when over 3 million sockeye were harvested. The sockeye fishery is in real good shape. The PU fishery has been harvesting hundreds of thousands of sockeyes in recent years, so it seems like the PU people are getting a lot of fish. This bill must want to change something. So, what is it going to change? The change could put him and his wife out of business. He also related that a number of years ago their fish opening was rescheduled for Mondays and Thursdays to accommodate people from Chugiak and Anchorage who wanted to fish on the weekends and to give the fish one day in between to repopulate the river. WES HUMBYRD, representing himself, Homer, Alaska, opposed SB 42. He had fished in Cook Inlet since 1966 and raised his family there. He felt this bill would open up a can of worms. Anyone in Anchorage who doesn't get enough fish with a dip net can come to his boat, the Knife's Edge, and he will make "damn sure" they don't starve. There has to be enough fish (millions of pounds) for people without having a law. RICHARD BISHOP, representing himself, Fairbanks, Alaska, supported SB 42. He lives in a subsistence use area and fished in the personal use fishery even before it was called that; it has been a major source of food for his family for over 50 years, and their experience is not unique. He said the Alaska Constitution outlines sustained yield and common use for the maximum benefit of Alaskans. That is how subsistence fishing has been classified in the past. The Alaska Constitution also allows for resident preferences. Personal use fishing is for residents and it should have priority over sport and commercial fishing when harvestable surplus is low. MIKE MICKELSON, representing himself, Cordova, Alaska, opposed SB 42. He is a lifelong resident of Cordova and a subsistence and commercial fisherman. This is a very allocative proposal and allocation is what the Board of Fisheries does, he said. The BOF created the PU fisheries in 1982 so that Alaskan residents could harvest salmon when there was an available surplus. There are lots of opportunities for PU fishermen; it is a valuable opportunity that Alaskans are lucky to have when extra fish are there. It is not subsistence. Most of his points have already been brought up by people who are against SB 42, but he added, if this proposal is really about putting Alaskans first, you can't believe it. If you are actually out there fishing all the time you can actually see what is happening in the ecosystems. Commercial fishermen have a very vested interest in keeping these fisheries around, because that is their income. He suggested expanding the loan programs instead of doing the BOF's job, which is what this proposal attempts to do. 4:58:22 PM ARNI THOMSON, Alaska Salmon Alliance, Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage Seafood Processors, Anchorage, Alaska, opposed SB 42. PU salmon needs of Alaska residents are already provided for upfront when the ADF&G calculates its annual harvest forecast for commercial, PU and subsistence fisheries based on Kenai and Kasilof River stocks. Thus, it is not necessary to create legislation unless the goal is to further exacerbate the divisiveness between user groups, he said. 5:00:41 PM JERRY MCCUNE, representing himself, Juneau, Alaska, opposed SB 42. He said PU fisheries were created for people who didn't qualify for subsistence. All kinds of fishing are important to Alaskans, but this bill seems to shut down commercial fishing. CHAIR GIESSEL apologized to the 26 people left wanting to testify and invited them to send their testimony to the committee in writing. 5:03:27 PM SENATOR STOLTZE thanked her for this opportunity to present his bill and said his goal is to represent Alaskans' interest. CHAIR GIESSEL said she welcomed written testimony and announced she would hold SB 42 in committee.