Commercial Fishing Bills Struggle to Gain Momentum in Michigan Legislature

There has been scant news on the progress of competing bills to update regulations for the Commercial Fishing Industry in Michigan. However, we have learned that behind the scenes, there has been a great deal of maneuvering.

Michigan State Capital

Bills Move Through Committee…or Not

First, the pro-commercial fisherman House Bill 4790 is still sitting idle in the Natural Resources Committee. It will likely not move forward as the trio of competing anti-commercial fishing bills have gained momentum and referred to the Ways-And Means Committee with hopes for getting to the House for a vote later this year. This trio of bills sponsored by Representatives Jim Lilly (R- Macatawa), Jack O’Malley (R-Lake Ann), and by Pauline Wendzel (R-Watervliet), are all part of a three-bill package supported by sportsmen groups.

MI Dept. of Natural Resources

The Commercial Fishing Bills House Bill trio; 4567, 4568, and 4569 (“The Trio”) are “tie-barred,” meaning that if one bill doesn’t pass, neither do the others. This set of proposals would increase fines, impose new requirements of filing GPS coordinates of net locations, and mandatory daily harvest reporting. It would also hike license fees and extends bans on commercial fishers from taking perch, walleye, and lake trout in Michigan waters. The set of bills was intended to update government regulation that stretches as far back as the 1920s.

There have been working groups attempting to hammer out a compromise between the two sets of competing House bills. However, we learned from the legislative staff that supporters of The Trio, have dug in and are unwilling to compromise.

Action in Michigan Senate on Commercial Fishing Bills

It’s a different story in the Upper House. Five Republican senators sponsor senate Bill 389; Kevin Daley, (R-Lapeer), Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington), Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway), Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan), Kenneth Horn, (R-Frankenmuth). SB 389 is considered favorable to Michigan’s last remaining commercial fishermen. Similar to “The Trio”, it raises fees and introduces a new 5% royalty to the DNR on fish sales. The royalty fees would be to fund the Game and Fish Protection Account. The bill also includes a provision to offer commercial fishers limited quotas of lake trout and walleye. The law also mandates that the DNR conduct scientific and ongoing studies to manage the fishery. This provision is not covered in “The Trio.” 

If House Bills 4567, 4568, and 4569 passes and Senate Bill 389 pass it could end up in a conference committee, which is rare, and usually happens only with budgetary packages. These bills are still in committee, and there is no timetable on when they will come to the floor for a vote. 

Grass Carp – Michigan DNR

Value of Fishing to Michigan

The Great Lakes Fishery Commission states that the Great Lakes commercial, recreational, and tribal fisheries are collectively valued at more than $7 billion annually and support more than 75,000 jobs. Lake whitefish, walleye, yellow perch, and ciscoes are the foundation of the commercial fishery. Salmon, walleye, trout, and muskellunge (among many other species) help comprise the recreational fishing.

Michael Hardy

Mike Hardy is the owner of Thumbwind Publications LLC. It started in 2009 as a fun-loving site covering Michigan's Upper Thumb. Since then, he has authored a vast range of content and established a loyal base of 60,000 visitors per month.

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