For those who wish to learn more about the issues and history of Consent Decree negotiations, we suggest reading the resources linked in this summary.
The proposed new decree would vastly increase areas of the Great Lakes where gillnetting is allowed, as illustrated by these maps comparing gillnetting areas of the 2000 Decree with the expanded gillnetting zones of the new proposal.
This unleashing of gillnetting represents a dramatic about-face of past DNR policy with consequences that jeopardize declining whitefish, recovering lake trout and the threatened lake sturgeon, to name a few.
The resource implications of gillnet expansion are potentially severe and threaten the future of all fisheries: recreational, commercial, and subsistence.
Past decrees and negotiations protected lake trout as they recovered from near extermination and designated zones for trapnetting, recreational fishing, and refuges, all of which were off-limits to gill nets. The 2000 Decree converted millions of feet of gill nets to the more selective, nonlethal trap nets.
The proposed decree reverses most of this progress for the sake of providing gillnet fishing opportunities, which are likely to prove short lived. For these reasons the Coalition to Protect Michigan Resources has filed objections to the proposed decree. The Tribal Unit of the DNR’s Fisheries Division, in response to these objections, has promoted a document entitled “Frequently Asked Questions…” that is misleading and simply not supported by science.