The Alaska Department of Fish and Game will host meetings throughout the state in November to gather public input on the legislature’s revival of sportfishing guide licenses.
The bill, HB 41, has not yet been adopted, but it would re-establish the licensing procedure for guides and guide services. The original licensing procedure, which was adopted in 2005, lapsed at the end of 2014 when the Legislature did not renew the regulations.
If adopted, the regulations would take effect Jan. 1, 2016, and apply for the 2016 fishing season. Some of the items listed in the statute formalize procedures Fish and Game already requires, said Tom Taube, deputy director of the Division of Sport Fish. This year, the department issued licenses as usual, but did not charge for them.
“We instituted a registration program and we did that through the Board of Fisheries,” Taube said. “There was just no fee.”
One of the additional requirements in HB 41 is that guides be certified in first aid, carry liability insurance, have a current sportfishing license and be a citizen of the U.S., Canada or Mexico, Taube said.
Vessel registration will not be required under statute until 2021, but registration is already required under current regulations. The inclusion in the bill is formalizing the requirement and the 2021 clause is the notification of the five-year sunset date, he said. The committee working on the legislation plans to maintain the statute for five years instead of 10 to provide a chance to review it if necessary, he said.
“Vessels are required to register right now under regulation,” Taube said. “This will just basically put it in statute.”
Fish and Game estimated that the program’s costs would have to increase over time to keep pace with the cost of operation. The program would cost approximately $382,700 to run, according to Fish and Game’s fiscal analysis.
The 2015 fees would be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2015 and would be $50 for guides only and $100 for sport fish businesses. From there, the fees would increase to $100 for guides and $200 for businesses in 2016, according to the analysis. The cost may go down when the department begins using an electronic logbook program, but the department did not offer an estimate in the analysis.
Three meetings will be held on the peninsula. The Soldotna meeting will be held at the Donald E. Gilman River Center, 514 Funny River Road, at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 17. The Homer meeting at the Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor Center, 95 Sterling Highway, in the Seminar Room at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 18. The Seward meeting will be held at the Seward City Council Chamber, 410 Adams Street, at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 19.
The meetings will be formatted like an open house, Taube said, where a brief presentation will introduce the changes in the bill and gather feedback on the current programs. The public will have the opportunity to comment on the logbook program and other aspects of sportfishing guide registration, he said.
Those who cannot attend the meetings can still submit comments, he said.
“People can submit comments to me directly,” Taube said. “We will probably put out a summary of the meetings and maybe summarize the comments.”
Individuals can send comments to Taube at email@example.com.
Reach Elizabeth Earl at firstname.lastname@example.org.