Law would let tourists fish on commercial boats

Holders of seven-day fishing licenses could not be paid for work

Posted: Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Alaska fishermen could give tourists a glimpse of life on a commercial fishing boat if legislators approve a seven-day crew license bill proposed by Rep. Carl Moses, D-Unalaska.

But the House Resources Committee's amended version of the bill, moved out of committee on Monday, prevents people who buy the $30 license from receiving any pay for their labor.

Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, said Monday that the revision was needed to keep commercial fishing operations from using the bill to hire cheap labor.

Moses, the original sponsor, and at least one fishermen's group, are not big fans of the committee's revision.

They had hoped that fishermen could also use the short-term license to temporarily fill spots on their crew during peak season.

"It doesn't seem in alignment with the original purpose of the bill," said Mark Vinsel, executive director of the United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA).

Vinsel said he's not sure how the short-term license will help commercial fishermen if they aren't allowed to use it to fill temporary spots on their crew.

"Crew members would want to get paid," he said.

Vinsel said UFA hasn't changed its position of support for the bill.

When the revision was made Monday afternoon, Moses aide Adam Berg said it didn't match Moses' intent for the bill but he didn't raise a formal objection to the revision.

Moses said after the hearing that the bill is "another tool in the toolbox" that could aid ailing fishing communities, especially in his Western Alaska district.

Moses said he originally got the idea for the short-term license from a constituent in Bristol Bay, and he thinks the concept will be popular with sport-fishing lodges, which could offer the seven-day license as a tour itinerary option.

A version of the bill did not make it through the last legislative session.

The state's Division of Administrative Services has estimated that if people buy an annual total of 100 seven-day licenses, it could provide as much as $2,700 in revenue to the state.

The House Finance Committee will take up the bill before it goes to the House floor for a vote.

• Elizabeth Bluemink can be reached at elizabeth.bluemink@juneauempire.com.



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