A US Congressman has sought clarification on a controversial fishing decree Michigan entered into by federal court order last summer.
Rep. Jack Bergman, Michigan’s First District, wrote to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer requesting “clarification on the State’s opinions and specific plans related to the implementation and enforcement of the 2023 Great Lakes Decree.”
Bergman’s office conveyed four main points in the letter to the governor: expanded use of gillnets is contradictory to Department of Natural Resources-backed biology and State policy, ambiguous enforcement mechanisms won’t catch bad actors, information sharing is limited, and consultation with local communities and stakeholders was nonexistent.
The Coalition to Protect Michigan Resources (CPMR), a group currently appealing the entry of the Great Lakes Consent Decree, agrees with Bergman’s points, said Tony Radjenovich, president of CPMR.
“While CPMR’s legal efforts to block the entrance of the decree continue, we must also prepare for the reality thrust upon us,” Radjenovich said. “We must focus our efforts on ensuring the department has the resources and ability to enforce the decree to the best of its abilities, ensuring proper funding is available.”
The Great Lakes decree primarily governs the balance between recreational and tribal commercial fishing of lake trout and whitefish through a zonal approach in the 2000 decree. That decree expired in 2020 but was extended during negotiations.
Past iterations of the decree focused on a shared fishery, reduction in gill net effort, rehabilitation of the lake trout population and a shared regulatory framework. The current decree abandons those principles and expands gillnets, Radjenovich said.
“Recreational anglers were not a part of the final negotiating process,” Radjeenovich said. “We are thankful the congressman understands this issue and its importance to the communities he serves throughout Michigan and was able to ask the tough questions as a neutral observer.”
CPMR comprises the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the Michigan Charter Boat Association, the Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermen’s Association, and the Hammond Bay Area Anglers Association, accompanied by various angling and conservation-supporting members.
Since the coalition’s inception, it has worked to ensure that recreation anglers’ voices are represented during the Great Lakes Consent Decree negotiations. You can support the work of CPMR by donating here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/protect-great-lakes-sportfishing.