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House Finance Committee Passes Bills to Help Alaska's Fishing Industry
Four Bills Proposed by Salmon Task Force


May 01, 2004

Ketchikan, AK - The Alaska House Finance Committee on Thursday passed the last of 4 Senate Bills that will stimulate Alaska's commercial fishing industry. The Joint Legislative Salmon Industry Task Force initially proposed the bills. Task Force member Representative Bill Williams (R-Saxman), stated the bills are all important to Alaska's largest industry. "The Salmon Task Force has worked hard for the last two years developing ideas to increase the value of our state's seafood and create opportunities for fishermen to survive and thrive. I was pleased to pass four Task Force bills out of the Finance Committee today," said Williams. "We need to foster new opportunities and options for Alaska's fishermen, processors and hatcheries."

The bills passed by the House Finance Committee are:

Senate Bill 273 - Changes to the ASMI Board (Sponsored by Senator Gary Stevens): This bill will make the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) a more effective and successful organization. It will reduce the size of the ASMI board from 25 members to seven members. To be a proactive and responsive worldwide marketer of Alaska's wild seafood, ASMI needs to be more streamlined. The Board will include five representatives of the processing industry and two fishermen. Processors will decide this fall if they want to increase their assessment for ASMI from .3% to .5% of the value of their product. If they do, the 1% assessment paid by fishermen will expire at the end of this year. If not, 2 more fishermen will be added to the Board. Representative Williams said, "Alaska needs a strong and adequately funded marketing organization in order to compete in the world marketplace and assist in revitalizing the industry. This bill is a step in that direction." SB273 passed out of House Finance Thursday.

Senate Bill 286 - Direct Marketing of Salmon (Sponsored by Senator Bert Stedman): This bill reduces the Fisheries Business Tax rate for fishermen who sell their own catch from 5 percent to 3 percent of the value of their fish. "With Salmon prices low and a growing demand for high-quality fresh Alaskan fish, many fishermen are choosing to sell their catch directly to restaurants, stores and consumers", said Representative Williams. "these entrepreneurial fishermen often freeze or otherwise process their fish, adding value to Alaska's fishery resources. Unfortunately, Alaska's current tax structure actually penalize these market-driven business decisions." SB 286 will make fisheries taxation more fair, and will encourage fishermen to diversify.

Senate Bill 315 - Entry Permit Buyback (Sponsored by Senator Ben Stevens): This bill modifies existing law governing buy-back programs. If the state obtains funds for a program to buy back fishing permits, the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission could "front fund" the program. The commission would then continue to collect funds from permit holders to "pay back" the indebtedness. When the optimum number of permits is reached after a buy-back and the commission has covered the reasonable costs of the program, it will end the assessment in the affected fishery. "SB 315 will make the administration of a buy-back program more workable," said Representative Williams.

Senate Bill 322 ­ Salmon Enhancement Tax (Sponsored by Senator Ben Stevens): This bill modifies the state's salmon enhancement tax to include additional tax rates. Under current law, fishermen who are members of five regional hatchery associations (Cook Inlet, Kodiak, Prince William Sound, Northern and Southern Southeast Alaska) may vote to tax themselves at the rate of 1, 2 or 3 percent of the value of their catch. SB 322 gives them a number of additional tax rates to choose from (30, 20, 15, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, and 4 percent). Representative Williams said the bill will give the aquaculture associations some needed flexibility to organize their operations and respond to the changing salmon industry. "Falling salmon prices have led to increased costs for regional aquaculture associations. To meet costs, many have increased the amount of fish harvested for 'cost-recovery.' Fishermen would like the opportunity to raise their tax rate to avoid increased cost-recovery harvests." Changing a tax rate will be optional, not mandatory.


Source of News Release:

Office of Rep. Bill Williams
Web Site

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