‘It’s full steam ahead for us,’ says Great Lakes Fishing Society after Michigan MNR lifts 2021 restrictions
LANSING, MI – Whitefish fans may be lucky this year after all, now that Michigan commercial fishermen say they are able to go ahead and fish as usual after that. the state rolled back recent restrictions on their industry.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has rescinded a set of regulations it had issued for 2021 regarding commercial fishing in the Great Lakes. The MNR normally issues a fishing order each year to prepare the ground for the coming season, but this year Order 243.21 was different from previous years. New restrictions have been put in place which sounded the alarm among the state’s commercial fishermen, citing concerns the restrictions could shut down their industry.
The DNR has since reversed its decision and issued a new order on February 11 entitled ‘243.21A’ which removed the restrictions of the original Order 243.21.
“Our family and crew are delighted that MDNR has decided to reverse its decision to significantly restrict our Michigan commercial fishing industry this year,” said Lakon Williams Bay Port Fish Co. “We are very grateful for the help and support we have received from our legislators on this matter.
MLive previously reported that the original version of the order limited trap nets to a water depth of 80 feet or less. Fishermen were originally able to fish in waters up to 150 feet deep before the order. The initial order also closed the 2021 season for whitefish from October 1 to December 10 on Lakes Huron and Michigan.
The new Order in Council restores a 150-foot depth restriction for net fishing and changed the timing of the whitefish season on Lakes Huron, Michigan and Superior. The season is rather closed under the new order only from November 1 to November 30.
“The Department intends to use the authority provided by MCL 324.46701 to issue Fisheries Ordinance 243.21A to allow the continuation of state licensed commercial fishing in the manner in which it was regulated. in 2020, as the ministry continues to review its approach to regulating state licenses. commercial fishing, ”said a memo released by MNR on Feb. 10.
MNR declined to comment on the changes due to an ongoing litigation against the organization. The Michigan Fish Producers Association recently filed a lawsuit against the DNR accusing the agency of violating the constitutional right of commercial fishing license holders to freedom of expression. Michigan Fish Producers Association attorney Michael Perry has confirmed that the trial is still on Friday, February 19.
An ongoing legislative battle has taken place between MNR, the sport fishing industry and the commercial fishing industry in recent years. In 2019, several House Bills sought to increase regulations and clarify existing statutes on the commercial fishing industry in Michigan.
Three House bills have been drafted to stop a surge that has allowed commercial fishing for walleye and lake trout while no longer allowing yellow perch as a commercial catch. Bills were previously approved by the House in February 2020 but were not approved by the Senate, as previously reported by MLive – The Bay City Times.
“We all agree that there must be updated laws. It is not a question. But commercial fishing – we want these laws to reflect the state of the fishery in 2020, ”said Amber Mae Petersen, owner of Fish Monger’s Wife in Muskegon.
Williams said, “We hope to find a compromise with the MDNR in the 2021 legislature regarding the rewrite of our Michigan Commercial Fishing Act.”
Some in the industry are moving cautiously into the 2021 season after hearing the news of the DNR’s decision to cancel its old order.
“On the outside it looks good, but I wonder what the other shoe is, what the problem is because at this point I doubt anything that is done that seems to be of benefit to the commercial fishermen – like I’m just waiting for another shoe to fall, ”said Petersen.
Petersen added that she had not yet received her commercial fishing license – something that she said could still change the shape of the 2021 season. She said that every commercial fisherman’s license actually tells them how. they can fish.
“There’s always this second big question looming over what is actually going to be on our licenses,” she said.
Williams said she also did not receive her license at that time, but said she received an email from the DNR saying he was working on it.
“I hate to sound so skeptical, like I want this to be positive for our businesses,” said Petersen. “But until we all have licenses and they’re all written exactly as they were before, I have reservations.”
The very last sentence of the new order also worries Petersen. It reads: “This ordinance will take effect on March 13, 2021 and will remain in effect until canceled. “
Petersen and Williams both confirmed that last year’s orders had a set expiration date and not the phrase “until canceled”.
“There’s that line in there that it could be positive, it could mean we could go on for the next five years or until new legislation is resolved in the legislature or it could be July 1 and we’ll be done, ”said Petersen. “Everything is at the [DNR] the manager’s discretion at this time, as our business is in the manager’s hands and we don’t have a firm date as to when he will change his mind and that is very, very disconcerting. “
Williams’ plan for 2021 is to continue fishing as usual for as long as the law allows, she said, and her company could end up putting more whitefish fillets in its freezers this spring for s ‘stocking up for what she called a “just in case scenario.”
“It’s full steam ahead for us,” said Williams. “It must be. We are concerned that the DNR is trying to pass something harmful again. However, we cannot be worried about what has not happened yet.
“We hope the DNR will allow us to fish all season this year, but time will tell,” she added. “They have already changed this order once, they have the power to do it again.”
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