Legislature(2017 - 2018)BUTROVICH 205

03/19/2018 03:30 PM Senate RESOURCES

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Audio Topic
03:29:49 PM Start
03:30:28 PM Confirmation Hearing(s): Big Game Commercial Services Board, State Assessment Review Board
03:48:09 PM SJR13
04:09:43 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Consideration of Governor's Appointees TELECONFERENCED
Big Game Commercial Services Board:
Mr. Jason Bunch
State Assessment Review Board:
Mr. William Westover
-- Public Testimony on Appointees --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled: TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSSJR 13(RES) Out of Committee
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
        SJR 13-URGING CO-MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR SEA OTTERS                                                                     
3:48:09 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  GIESSEL called  the meeting  back to  order and  announced                                                               
consideration of SJR  13. At the first hearing  on Monday, public                                                               
testimony was opened and concluded.                                                                                             
SENATOR COGHILL moved to adopt  CSSJR 13( ), version 30-LS1408\U,                                                               
as the working document.                                                                                                        
CHAIR GIESSEL objected for discussion purposes.                                                                                 
3:48:56 PM                                                                                                                    
RANDY  RUARO, Chief  of Staff  to Senator  Stedman, Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature,  Juneau,  Alaska,   explained  two  changes  between                                                               
version  J to  version U  of SJR  13. On  page 4,  line 3,  a new                                                               
resolve clause is added to urge  the Secretary of the Interior to                                                               
waive the  requirements of  the Marine  Mammal Protection  Act to                                                               
allow the taking of sea  otters in Southeast Alaska. In addition,                                                               
on page  4, lines 28  & 29, language  "who is enrolled  under the                                                               
Alaska  Native Claims  Settlement Act  (ANCSA)" is  add to  those                                                               
Alaska Natives who would be eligible to take sea otters.                                                                        
CHAIR GIESSEL, finding no further  comments, removed her objected                                                               
and said CSSJR 13( ), version U, was before the committee.                                                                      
3:50:11 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR COGHILL  moved to adopt  Conceptual Amendment 1.  On page                                                               
3, line 2, delete  "either" and on page 3, line  3, delete "or to                                                               
be enrolled under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act".                                                                     
CHAIR GIESSEL objected for discussion purposes.                                                                                 
MR.  RUARO  explained  that  the  language  being  deleted  is  a                                                               
drafting error  and is related  to a resolve clause  about relief                                                               
that the resolution is seeking. It's not current law.                                                                           
CHAIR GIESSEL  removed her objection, and  Conceptual Amendment 1                                                               
was adopted.                                                                                                                    
3:51:34 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if ADF&G supports the resolution.                                                                    
3:52:12 PM                                                                                                                    
CHRIS KRENZ, Wildlife Science  Coordinator, Division of Wildlife,                                                               
Alaska Department of  Fish and Game (ADF&G),  said the department                                                               
is neutral on SJR 13.                                                                                                           
3:53:25 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  WIELECHOWSKI  asked  if  the  department  had  done  any                                                               
research on  this issue  and if  he believes  the sea  otters are                                                               
impacting the fisheries in any way.                                                                                             
MR. KRENZ answered  that it is very clear that  sea otters have a                                                               
very large impact on the ecosystem  that has resulted in very low                                                               
numbers of shellfish in several areas.                                                                                          
SCOTT KELLEY, Director, Division  of Commercial Fisheries, Alaska                                                               
Department of  Fish and Game  (ADF&G), said they do  believe that                                                               
sea  otters are  impacting commercial  and subsistence  important                                                               
species.  He  added that  the  department  conducts scuba  diving                                                               
surveys   for   three   miscellaneous  shellfish   species:   sea                                                               
cucumbers, geoduck  clams, and  red sea  urchins, and  have often                                                               
noticed sea otters preying on  these creatures that are important                                                               
for  commercial fisheries  and subsistence.  In  fact, they  have                                                               
closed 12  sea cucumber areas,  6 geoduck  areas, and 10  red sea                                                               
urchin areas specifically because of sea otter predation.                                                                       
SENATOR  WIELECHOWSKI asked  why the  department doesn't  support                                                               
the resolution with that knowledge.                                                                                             
MR.  KELLEY  answered  that  the department  is  neutral  on  the                                                               
resolution, but he  is calling in to present the  data related to                                                               
the on-topic species.                                                                                                           
SENATOR STEDMAN  asked if the  department has any  projections on                                                               
future impacts  on the three mentioned  fisheries and subsistence                                                               
MR. KELLEY  answered it  is "very  safe" to  say that  sea otters                                                               
will continue  to expand their range  in the region. It  has been                                                               
well documented  since their introduction. Clear  that additional                                                               
areas  will  be  closed.  It's clear  the  additional  commercial                                                               
fishing  areas  will  be closed  for  these  three  miscellaneous                                                               
shellfish  species and  it's  pretty clear  that  sea otters  are                                                               
getting  close to  the  very heart  of  the commercial  Dungeness                                                               
fishery in  the region.  Once that happens  that fishery  will be                                                               
significantly affected.                                                                                                         
SENATOR STEDMAN noted  that the harvest level had  gone down from                                                               
1,500 sea otters in the last five  years to 800 and the sea otter                                                               
population is  growing at  13 percent  a year.  So, they  are not                                                               
talking about decades  here, but years, before they  get into the                                                               
core Dungeness fishing  grounds.  He said a sea  otter herd is in                                                               
Duncan Canal already - quite the feasting grounds.                                                                              
3:57:36 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MEYER asked what preys on sea otters.                                                                                   
MR. KELLEY  replied that killer whales  are known to prey  on sea                                                               
otters, particularly in the Aleutians.                                                                                          
MR.  KRENZ added  that  sharks  eat sea  otters,  too, but  their                                                               
population is still growing faster than that.                                                                                   
SENATOR BISHOP asked if the  department had completed an economic                                                               
study on the loss to the  commercial Dungeness crab fleet and the                                                               
subsistence take.                                                                                                               
3:59:31 PM                                                                                                                    
MR.  KELLEY replied  that the  Division  of Commercial  Fisheries                                                               
manages the  subsistence shellfish fisheries in  Southeast Alaska                                                               
and they  haven't closed any subsistence  shellfish fisheries and                                                               
wouldn't  - sea  otters or  not sea  otters. He  didn't have  the                                                               
information  on   whether  subsistence  harvest  had   gone  down                                                               
compared  to Tanner  20 years.  A formal  economic study  had not                                                               
been  done on  the  impacts to  commercial  fisheries, the  three                                                               
miscellaneous  dive fisheries,  and  Dungeness  crab. While  they                                                               
know sea otters  have a significant impact on  those creatures, a                                                               
lot of other factors affect  their abundance, as well. They don't                                                               
do  assessments   on  Dungeness  crab,   but  they  do   for  the                                                               
miscellaneous  shellfish, and  large-scale environmental  factors                                                               
drive their abundance, too.                                                                                                     
SENATOR  WIELECHOWSKI  remarked  that Senator  Stedman  could  be                                                               
considered  the apex  predator of  the sea  otter. He  asked what                                                               
kept sea  otters in check  a couple of  hundred years ago  and if                                                               
something changed in the ecosystem.                                                                                             
MR. KRENZ  answered the ecosystem  was very different  before the                                                               
Russian fur trade started and sea  otters were hunted to very low                                                               
numbers. There weren't the  same invertebrate shellfish resources                                                               
available  at   that  time.  The  Division   of  Subsistence  has                                                               
information  indicating  that locals  would  hunt  sea otters  in                                                               
particular areas to protect clam beaches or crab areas.                                                                         
CHAIR  GIESSEL thanked  everyone  for being  available to  answer                                                               
4:03:10 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEDMAN  closed saying it's  time to take action  on this                                                               
issue and  try to get the  additional attention of the  U.S. Fish                                                               
and  Wildlife   Service  informing   them  that   coastal  Alaska                                                               
particularly Southeast  is having problems with  the magnitude of                                                               
the  growth  of  the  sea   otter  population  not  only  on  the                                                               
commercial  side  but  on  the  subsistence  side.  Many  coastal                                                               
communities don't have large super  markets, or daily flights, or                                                               
goods brought  in to have  a litany of  choices for what  to eat.                                                               
They actually go out onto the beach,  or into the water, or up on                                                               
the hillside, and get what they can gather from Mother Nature.                                                                  
They are  having a  severe challenge  with letting  the replanted                                                               
sea otters  grow at an unchecked  rate. It would be  nice to have                                                               
sea otters all over Southeast, but  at a lower level, and clearly                                                               
not to a point where they are impacting other areas of interest.                                                                
SENATOR STEDMAN noted  that the tourism trade likes  to watch sea                                                               
otters in  the water, but  there has to be  a balance. He  is not                                                               
looking  for eradication  of  the sea  otters,  but just  slowing                                                               
their growth.  He said state  control had been taken  away, which                                                               
was not the case when the  state replanted them in Southeast. Now                                                               
we have management from afar and  the whole table has been turned                                                               
on  us. A  good  Anchorage  Daily News  (AND)  article about  sea                                                               
otters had comments  from U.S. Fish and  wildlife indicating that                                                               
they didn't  really care, and  they should care about  the humans                                                               
that live in Southeast and other areas of coastal Alaska.                                                                       
4:07:12 PM                                                                                                                    
The management  style of doing  nothing after  particular beaches                                                               
and areas are  completely decimated will cause  other critters to                                                               
be listed  as endangered  or threatened,  too. He  reminded folks                                                               
that 1995,  the mouth of Glacier  Bay had five or  six otters and                                                               
in 2012 there was an estimated  8,000 of them. As a park, Glacier                                                               
Bay is  managed differently, but  if you  live there and  rely on                                                               
harvest, you definitely have a  different opinion. That growth in                                                               
Glacier Bay  is similar to  other areas  in the state:  Prince of                                                               
Wales, South Baranov Island, and he  heard a big raft of them was                                                               
next to Petersburg and ready to  go into the mouth of the Stikine                                                               
River. He said we need some federal help on this issue.                                                                         
4:08:33 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  COGHILL  moved  to  report  CSSJR  13,  work  order  30-                                                               
LS1408\U,   as   amended,    from   committee   with   individual                                                               
recommendations  and attached  zero  fiscal note.  There were  no                                                               
objections  CSSJR   13(RES)  moved  from  the   Senate  Resources                                                               
Standing Committee.                                                                                                             

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
Agenda - 3 - 19 - 2018 .pdf SRES 3/19/2018 3:30:00 PM
Big Game Comm Serv Board - Fact Sheet - 2 - 26 - 2018.pdf SRES 3/19/2018 3:30:00 PM
Appointments - Resume - Bunch to Commercial Services Board.pdf SRES 3/19/2018 3:30:00 PM
Appointments - Resume - Westover to State Assessment Review Board.pdf SRES 3/19/2018 3:30:00 PM
Appointments - Fact Sheet - State Assessment Review Board - 2 - 19 - 2018 .pdf SRES 3/19/2018 3:30:00 PM
CSSJR13 - Version U.pdf SRES 3/19/2018 3:30:00 PM
SJR 13
SJR 13 - Explanation of Changes.pdf SRES 3/19/2018 3:30:00 PM
SJR 13
HJR13 - Supporting Document - Letter - Johnny Rice.pdf SRES 3/19/2018 3:30:00 PM
HJR 13