June 18, 2019

Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka

Department of Administration

550 W 7th Ave, Ste. 1970

Anchorage, Alaska 99501

 

Re: AS 05.25.055/ SB 92, the Derelict Vessels Act

 

Dear Commissioner Tshibaka,

 

United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA) is the statewide commercial fishing trade association,

representing 36 commercial fishing organizations participating in fisheries throughout the

state, and the federal fisheries off Alaska’s coast.

 

We respectfully ask that the implementation of AS 05.25.055/ SB 92, the Derelict Vessels

Act be delayed until June 2020. The rollout of this bill was poorly executed, leaving state

agencies and vessel owners scrambling to understand their respective responsibilities and

effectively coordinate their roles.

 

When SB 92 was first introduced, UFA expressed its concern to both Senator Micciche and

the Alaska Association of Harbormasters and Port Administrators that in order for this to be

successful, there would need to be ample notice to vessel owners. We requested that vessels

registered with the Commercial Fishing Entry Commission (CFEC) be exempt from this law

because vessels registered with CFEC are entered into a state-managed database, which is

one of the main objectives SB 92 set out to accomplish. Regardless if it was intentional or an

oversight that CFEC registered vessels were not made exempt, the lack of notice to vessel

owners has made compliance with this law extremely challenging.

 

Since becoming aware of this new law in late May, UFA has been working with the

Department of Motor Vehicles and Alaska State Wildlife Troopers to understand how they

intend to implement the requirements of the law. We have notified thousands of fishermen of

the law’s requirements through emails and social media posts. As far as we can tell, the

commercial fishing industry, spearheaded by UFA, is the only sector currently actively

working to inform commercial fishermen of the new requirements, even though this affects

thousands of non-commercial fishing boat owners around the state. Who is informing them?

 

As fishermen attempt to comply with the law’s requirements they are discovering that many

DMV offices are not ready to deal with the onslaught of this new bill. Several DMV offices

were lacking proper forms and stickers, and many DMV employees were confused by the

new law and provided incorrect information to fishermen. In addition, many DMV offices

are only open a few days a week and some have even been closed for a multiple weeks.

Many fishermen were already fishing out in Bristol Bay and Prince William Sound when

word of this new law reached them, and could not readily make it to a DMV office.

 

The UFA office has become a clearing house for frustrated vessel owners who want to

comply with the law but are having trouble doing so due to DMV offices being closed in

their region, offices lacking the correct forms, running out of sticker decals, and

misinformation. We have spoken several times with the Director of the DMV, Marla

Thompson, and have found her to be extremely helpful. She is doing her very best to help

everyone meet the law’s requirements, yet, due to the fact that fishing and boating season is

in full-swing, it appears to be too much for many local DMV offices to keep up with.

 

There are still many questions left unanswered with this bill. What constitutes 90 consecutive

days? If a boat goes up in a shipyard, does the 90 days start over? Does a seine skiff need to

get a registration and title, or is that included with the main seine vessel? These are questions

that law enforcement and the DMV have been asked, but have not answered. What are

Bristol Bay and Prince William Sound fishermen supposed to do when their DMV offices are

closed and they have made attempts to comply? These are just a few of the many questions

that vessel owners have brought to our attention.

 

We understand the need for this bill and support the idea behind it, but its translation and

implementation is currently flawed. We will be working with legislators next year to include

language that CFEC registered vessels be exempt from compliance. In the meantime, we ask

that this implementation of this law be postponed until all state agencies are better prepared

and trained, and adequate notice and education are given prior to it going into effect.

 

Sincerely,

Matt Alward   UFA President

Frances H. Leach   UFA  Executive Director

 

CC: Governor Michael Dunleavy

Amanda Price, Commissioner of Public Safety

Senator Peter Micciche

Alaska Association of Harbormasters and Port Administrators

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