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The research section provides the background research and analyses needed by the Commission. The section, coupled with the Commission's data processing section, also produces basic economic data on Alaska's fisheries which can be used to address many policy questions and produces standard or specialized reports to serve the data needs of users outside the agency.
In 1994, the Commission's research staff was involved in many projects. These projects included efforts to monitor trends in Alaska's fisheries, to evaluate the need for access controls in particular fisheries, and to provide other agencies and users with needed data and analyses.
The staff produced analyses on issues for the Legislature, the Office of the Governor, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), and the Alaska Board of Fisheries (ABF). In addition, the staff answered numerous information and data requests from the general public. The following paragraphs provide brief highlights of 1994 activities.
In 1994, the Commission evaluated several fisheries in response to limitation petitions which had been received. The Commission has continued to examine certain crab fisheries but has been reluctant to limit these fisheries under the current law. Most of these fisheries have a wide range of vessel sizes and types of operations. The Commission has been unable to conclude that limiting the number of skippers will do an adequate job of containing the potential for fishing capacity and effort to grow after limitation in such fisheries (see recommendations in the new legislation subsection).
The Commission also received petitions to limit the Hoonah Sound herring spawn-on-kelp pound fishery in Southeastern Alaska during 1994. After thoroughly examining the fishery and the issues involved, the Commission proposed limitation for both a Northern Southeast herring spawn-on-kelp pound fishery which includes the area of Hoonah Sound and a Southern Southeast herring spawn-on-kelp pound fishery which includes the area of the Craig-Klawock fishery. Public hearings on the proposals were held in December of 1994.
The public comment period on the limitation proposals ended on January 3, 1995. Based on the Commission's studies, ADF&G's support of limitation, and public testimony, the Commission adopted regulations to limit these two fisheries. During 1995, eligibility for interim entry permits in these fisheries will be restricted to those who participated as permit holders and commercially harvested the resource prior to January 1, 1995.
Under AS 16.43, the Commission must develop a hardship ranking system or point system to determine who will receive a limited entry permit in a newly limited fishery. In 1994, the Commission worked on point system alternatives for the Cook Inlet dungeness crab pot and ring net fisheries. A regulatory proposal was made in December of 1994 and public hearings were held in January of 1995. The Commission is expected to decide whether or not to adopt or modify the proposals during 1995.
Low prices in the salmon industry left many permit holders struggling to stay financially viable in 1994 and may have exacerbated problems with IRS tax collectors. During the year, the Commission worked with other agencies to try to help develop short and longer term plans for dealing with the problem.
If salmon prices continue to be low or deteriorate even further, the State may need to help find a means to reduce or consolidate some fish harvesting operations on a temporary or permanent basis. Development of a viable fisherman-funded fleet reduction program may depend upon a satisfactory resolution of some of the issues raised by the Alaska Supreme Court in Johns v. State, CFEC, 758 P.2d 1256. During 1994, the Commission maintained its dialogue with individuals and gear groups interested in gear reductions.
In 1994, the Commission evaluated changes in the distribution of Alaska's limited entry permits by residence of holders. This is a topic which continues to be of interest to Alaskans and their legislators. The report Changes In The Distribution Of Alaska's Limited Entry Permits, 1975-1993 (CFEC Report 94-8N), co-authored by K. Iverson and E. Dinneford, provides extensive data and information on the topic.
The report updates previous studies by the Commission. For analysis purposes, the report defines five resident-types. These include non-residents and four Alaskan resident-types. The four Alaskan resident-types are based upon whether a permit holder lives in a rural or urban community, and whether that community is considered local or non-local to the limited fishery.
The report provides data on the 50 limited fisheries (54 permit types) for which permanent permits had been issued through year-end 1993. It covers the 1975 through 1993 time period and includes detailed information on the changes in the number and type of entry permits held by each Alaskan resident-type and non-residents.
The report indicates that there has been a net movement of permits from rural Alaska communities to urban Alaska communities over the time period. However, the Alaska resident and non-resident composition of permit holders has remained relatively stable since the beginning of the program. At the end of 1993, approximately 78% of all limited entry permits were held by Alaskans and over 56% of the permits held by Alaskans were held by residents of rural communities.
The report provides fishery specific and statewide data on permit transfers, the initial geographic distribution of permit holders, changes due to permit transfers, changes due to permit holder migrations, and the year-end 1993 geographic distribution of permit holders. Data are also provided on the age distribution of permit holders and age differences between transferors and transfer recipients.
Detailed data summaries are also reported from the Commission's transfer survey. These summaries provide information on the incidence of transfers between family members and business partners, transfer acquisition methods, and transfer financing methods. Copies of the report are available upon request.
At the request of the Office of the Governor and ADF&G, the Commission staff helped produce some analyses of North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) proposals for license limitation in crab fisheries and groundfish fisheries covered under NPFMC's Fishery Management Plans (FMPs).
A Draft For Council and Public Review of the report "Environmental Assessment/Regulatory Impact Review (EA/RIR) For License Limitation Alternatives For The Groundfish & Crab Fisheries In The Gulf Of Alaska and Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands" was presented to the Council at its April, 1994 meeting. The Commission's work on this report consisted of two survey sections of limited entry and fleet reduction programs and methodologies. These sections were prepared by B. Muse, K. Schelle, and K. Iverson.
The alternatives were revised extensively after the April NPFMC meeting. A revised baseline analysis dated September 18, 1994 as well as some supplemental analyses can be obtained from the NPFMC. The NPFMC is expected to take action on the alternatives during 1995.
The research staff also produced monthly permit value estimates for the Department of Commerce and Economic Development and other users and produces basic information tables on many of Alaska's commercial fisheries. Reports were also prepared on wholesale production and prices by E. Dinneford. The research and data processing sections also worked to produce reports on Alaska's fisheries which were used in the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) publication Fisheries of The United States, 1993.
During the year, the Commission's research staff produced many ad hoc reports for the Commission and other analyses requested by the Office of the Governor, the Department of Fish and Game, the Board of Fisheries and Alaska's Legislature. Among these reports, the following are available upon request:
In 1994, the Southeastern Alaska dungeness crab fishery was in the third year of a four-year temporary moratorium on new entrants. This temporary moratorium was implemented under AS 16.43.227 and expires automatically on January 2, 1996. If the Commission does not limit the fishery prior to that date the fishery will return to open access.
During 1994, the Commission met with fishery managers and continued to take input from participants in the fishery. In the fall of 1994, the Commission held a series of meetings in towns throughout Southeastern Alaska to discuss ideas for limitation programs which fishermen have presented. The ideas included an individual fishing quota program, a fractional licensing program, a tiered-pot limited entry program, and the existing limited entry program with lowered pot limits.
While the meetings were productive in terms of facilitating a healthy discussion of the issues and possible alternatives, the fleet remains somewhat divided as to the most appropriate approach. The Commission has been reluctant to limit the fishery under the current limited entry program because of concerns that the program would do a poor job of containing the potential growth of fishing capacity and effort. The Commission is hopeful that new legislation may emerge from the 1995 session that will provide authority to develop an alternative limited entry program that will better address the needs in this fishery.
Each year, the Commission receives petitions to limit entry into additional fisheries, as more fisheries face the threat of increased commercial fishing pressure. In recent years, the Commission has denied a high percentage of the petitions received. In some cases petitions are denied because the Commission feels that the existing limited entry program will not do an effective job of controlling the growth of fishing capacity and effort after limitation.
Alaska's limited entry law, AS 16.43, was written with the salmon fisheries in mind. The law essentially provides the authority to limit the number of permit holders (skippers) in a fishery. It has worked reasonably well in fisheries where the gear or vessel size has been restricted by the Board of Fisheries prior to limitation and where participating operations tend to be of a more full-time nature. In such cases, the harvesting operations in the fishery tend to be similar to each other and a program that limits the number of skippers does a reasonable job of containing the growth in fishing capacity and effort.
In fisheries where there are a wide range of vessel sizes and types of operations, and a broad mix of participants from small part-timers to more full-time operations, simply limiting the number of skippers will not do an adequate job of controlling the growth in fishing capacity. If a permit is issued to a skipper of a small part-time operation, that person can simply upgrade his/her fishing operation or sell the permit to someone who will run a bigger more full-time operation. For this reason, the Commission has been reluctant to use the current limited entry program in fisheries where such conditions exist.
Currently, the Commission has petitions to limit several of the State-managed shellfish fisheries. These fisheries are dominated by Alaska residents and some fear that there will be a huge spillover effect into these potentially high-valued shellfish fisheries if the NPFMC limits entry into the groundfish and Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands crab fisheries. However, the Commission has felt that the current limited entry program would not do an effective job in these fisheries.
Since the beginning of the salmon limited entry program, it has been recognized that a different type of limited entry program might be needed in these types of fisheries. AS 16.43.980(a)(2) requires that the Commission submit in its annual report recommendations to the legislature for additional legislation relating to the regulation of entry into Alaska commercial fisheries.
The Southeast Alaska Dungeness Crab Association plans to seek new legislation during the 1995 session. Their proposal would provide the Commission with the authority to place additional restrictions on entry permits at initial issuance that would help constrain subsequent growth in fishing capacity. Any such constraints would be based upon past participation. The Commission supports the concepts embodied in the Association's proposal and thinks that such legislation would allow the State to design better rights-based management programs in the future.
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