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Stutes proposes bill to exempt CFEC-registered boats from DMV registration

Kodiak’s harbor, January, 2020. (Photo by Kavitha George/KMXT)
Kodiak’s harbor, January, 2020. (Photo by Kavitha George/KMXT)

State House Representative Louise Stutes last week proposed a bill that should make boat registration easier on commercial fishermen if it passes. HB 185 would exempt vessels with a current state Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission (CFEC) sticker from being required to register their boats with the DMV.

“It was a double registration for a lot of people,” Stutes said. “If you’re a commercial fishing vessel, and you’re registered with the CFEC, this information is already on record.”

Stutes’ bill is in direct response to Soldotna Senator Peter Micciche’s derelict vessels bill, SB 92 from last spring, which required all boats, barges, sport fishing guide boats, and tenders over 24 feet to be registered with the DMV. The intent was to address the growing issue of derelict and abandoned vessels all over the state, but in Micchiche’s own words, the bill’s roll-out was “less than stellar.”

A letter from United Fishermen of Alaska to the Dunleavy Administration in June complained that fishermen were not given enough notice about the change. It cited DMV offices being closed in places, and offices running out of the right forms or sticker decals, adding to the confusion.

“There was a lot of confusion with the DMV too,” Stutes went on. “Because in order to register your boat for this sticker, having the title to the boat wasn’t a requirement. And DMV was saying, ‘yes, this is a requirement.’ It was just a real, real mess in more than one way.”

Stutes said she’s committed to tackling the problem of derelict vessels, but sees no reason why fishermen with CFEC-registered boats should have to pay another fee to the DMV to get their boats registered with the state a second time.

“It is not to create additional revenue for the state,” she said. “It’s to prevent additional expenses by way of these derelict boats that municipalities have to deal with.”

Stutes said she hasn’t had any pushback from fishermen, boat owners or harbormasters on her bill. HB 185 was prefiled last week. It will need to go through several committee hearings before it comes up for a vote. The first day of the legislative session was Wednesday.