June 09, 2004
"It is my pleasure to sign these needed changes into law today," Murkowski said. "Our objective is to help the salmon industry transition into a more stable economic engine for the coastal communities of Alaska. The world wants and needs Alaska's fish. With modernized processing facilities, better quality control, and an adaptability that meets market needs, our salmon fisheries should regain their dominant position in those world markets. These bills will help make that happen."
HB 419, by Kodiak Rep. Dan Ogg, was recommended by the Joint Legislative Salmon Industry Task Force. This bill will allow fishermen to form regional seafood development associations. Members of each association can then vote on whether to tax themselves in order to pay for fish marketing efforts. Regional branding has proven very effective for Copper River fishermen and "Copper River reds."
SB 315, by Anchorage Senator Ben Stevens, adds flexibility to current law governing commercial fishing entry permit buy-back programs. The Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission will now be allowed to fund a buy back program "up-front" with a loan or other form of appropriation.
Current law provides that buy-back program assessments on fishermen will terminate when the number of permits is reduced to the optimum level. The current system assumes permit buy-backs would occur either gradually as assessment revenue is collected or they would occur all at once when enough revenue has been collected.
A more effective program envisioned under SB 315 would allow for buy-back program assessments to continue after the optimum number of permits is reached. This would allow for up-front financing, such as a loan to be used to buy back permits, and for repayment of the loan through assessments that would continue even after the optimum number is reached.
SB 322, also by Senator Stevens, offers flexibility to regional aquaculture associations by adding tax rates of 4,5,6,7,8,9,10, 15, 20, and 30 percent in a salmon enhancement tax as options that fishermen may impose on themselves.
HJR 44, by the House Resources Committee, requests federal funding of $5 million each year for 5 years for research into the reasons why the Northern Sea Otter population is in decline, and that the main research center be located in Kodiak with field stations in coastal communities in Western Alaska. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently proposed to list the Northern Sea Otter as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, which would impact the fishing industry, even though there may be no link between the two. The federal funding would lead to research that would identify the actual cause for the decline, minimizing impact to industry and people of the region.
HJR 34, by Rep. Dan Ogg, was also recommended by the Salmon Task Force. It mainly urges Congress and federal agencies to amend eligibility requirements for fishermen to participate in Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) programs. The resolution requests:
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