CPMR Files Appeal in Sixth Circuit

The Coalition to Protect Michigan’s Resources (CPMR) filed its principal appellate brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit yesterday arguing against entry of the 2023 Great Lakes Consent Decree (2023 Decree).

The 2023 Decree was a negotiated settlement of four sovereign Michigan Tribes, the United States of America, and the State of Michigan. Judge Paul Maloney approved the 2023 Decree in August after considering CPMR’s objections to the agreed-upon management framework.

In handing down his order, Judge Maloney rejected  CPMR’s claim that biological harm is likely to happen to the Great Lakes fisheries due to the drastic increase in gillnet fishing in lakes Michigan, Huron, and Superior accompanied by significantly too high of target annual mortality rates for Lake Trout and Whitefish. Even more problematic, Judge Maloney failed to recognize the 2023 Decree does not contain proper measures to mitigate harm to the resource because of overfishing. This is especially concerning with the undisputed declining Whitefish stocks.

CPMR’s appeal is available to the public and can be found in its entirety here. The appeal focused on the District Court’s disregarding of biological evidence that the 2023 Decree could irreparably harm the resource. CPMR presented expert witnesses and biological data showing that the massive expansion of gillnets into new areas of the Great Lakes is unsustainable and will decimate local fisheries in Michigan.

The appeal raises several legal and fact-based questions about the District Court’s decision. Chief among them, did the District Court abuse its discretion in approving the 2023 Decree when the management framework of the Decree is unenforceable, drastically expands gillnetting to the detriment of the Great Lakes fisheries, fails to require the parties to collect complete data, and sets target annual mortality rates significantly too high considering the biological status of the Great Lakes fisheries?


Through the appeal, CPMR argues that the District Court erred in its review of the 2023 Decree. The appeal is based on factual and legal issues, including vagueness of harvest limits, impact on the fishery, rehabilitation of Lake Trout and Whitefish, and inadequate information sharing. The other parties are due to file responses to the CPMR appeal by January 18, and then CPRM will get an opportunity to reply to those arguments by February 20.

Amy Trotter, Michigan United Conservation Clubs CEO and CPMR treasurer, said that CPMR’s focus has always been the health of the Great Lakes fishery.

“The sustainability of the Great Lakes fishery has always been our top priority,” said Trotter. “Our position has been unwavering, the 2023 Great Lakes Consent Decree, as written, would cause potentially irreversible harm to the populations of vital sportfish species. The Coalition has held the position for years that gillnets are indiscriminate, lethal, and dangerous for the fishery.”

CPMR members have served as amici through every iteration of the court litigation and negotiations since the late 1970s. President Tony Radjenovich said that the coalition cannot lose focus at the end.

“For more than 40 years the Coalition’s members have been a voice for the fishery,” said Radjenovich. “Our resolve remains as strong now as ever, we will not lose sight of what is important, the health of the Great Lakes fishery. We are committed to exhausting every reasonable legal option we have to ensure the fishery is protected.”

CPMR is comprised of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the Michigan Charter Boat Association, the Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fishermen’s Association, and Hammond Bay Area Anglers Association, accompanied by an assortment of 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.