Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bill Would Double Cost of Seven-Day Alaska Crewmember Licenses

Legislation introduced by Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, would double the cost of seven-day crewmember fishing licenses from $30 to $60 in Alaska.

Seaton said March 9 that there has been an explosive growth in the number of non-resident fishermen purchasing more than one seven-day license for a fishing season at $30 apiece rather than pay the $200 annual fee, and legislators were looking at how to make the system work better.

Alaska residents may purchase an annual crewmember license for $60.

Seaton said legislators considered restricting the number of seven-day licenses an individual could purchase for a single year, but it was too complicated to track because of the number of places where licenses can be purchased. In late February, Seaton introduced the action as House Bill 143.

Thirty-nine percent of each license sold, up to a total of $50, goes into the state’s Fishermen’s Fund, which is like a worker’s compensation fund for fishermen. Given the increasing number of non-residents purchasing two, three or more seven-day licenses for a single season, Seaton said that fund is losing thousands of dollars annually.

Back in 2003, legislation was passed to allow crewmembers the option of purchasing a seven-day license rather than one for the entire season, to accommodate those only planning to participate in the commercial fishery for a short time. For residents, that was a savings of $30 from the $60 fee for the year.

Nonresidents purchase the bulk of seven-day commercial fishing licenses.

“It’s nothing critical, but it is an accelerating problem,” said Seaton. If the measure passes, Seaton said, he did not expect the fee change to be in effect for this year.

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