The Michigan House passed a trio of related bills that will cease all commercial perch fishing on the state’s Great Lakes. The “Trio” (4567, 4568, and 4569) also continues to ban the taking of walleye and lake trout by the remaining 13 commercial fishing companies left in Michigan. The next step will be a vote in the Senate where it will face a competing bill that is less damaging to Michigan commercial fishing.
The Trio of Bills Passed overwhelmingly
The Commercial Fishing Bills House Bill trio; 4567, 4568, and 4569 (“The Trio”) are “tie-barred,” meaning that if one bill didn’t pass, neither do the others. This set of bills will 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.
The vote tally for the Commercial Fishing Bills House Bill trio was
- House Bill 4567: 72 Yes, 32 No.
- House Bill 4568: 73 Yes, 31 No.
- House Bill 4569: 73 Yes, 31 No.
This version of the Trio contained a new provision. It gives the Michigan Department of Natural Resources the option to pay commercial fisherman if the DNR rescinds doesn’t reissue a commercial fishing license in order to protect the fishery.
This trio of bills was sponsored by Representatives Jim Lilly (R- Macatawa), Jack O’Malley (R-Lake Ann), and by Pauline Wendzel (R-Watervliet). This three-bill package was supported by angler interest groups including Michigan Trout Unlimited and Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC).
Michigan Senate has its Own Commercial Fishing Bill on Deck
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.”
It’s possible the the House Bills 4567, 4568, and 4569 and Senate Bill 389 it could end up in a conference committee, which is rare. This process usually happens only with budgetary packages. There is no timetable on when they will come to the Michigan Senate floor for a vote.
Restaurants Fear Loss of Perch and Walleye
In the tiny village of Pinnebog, Robert Heck owns Heck’s Bar. A family business that that well known in Michigan’s Upper Thumb. Robert noted, “Heck’s Bar in Pinnebog, has sold Lake Perch baskets since the late 60’s. Bayport Fish Company is one of our suppliers for fresh Perch. Studies from MSU have shown that one of the main problems regarding the Perch population is predator fish. It seems it would make more sense to allow the commercial fisheries to be allowed to fish these predator species to take the pressure off the Perch population.”
Michigan’s ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Act’
Amber Mae Petersen, the secretary-treasurer of the Michigan Fish Producers Association noted in an article in the Capital News Service, “There are not game fish versus commercial fish — there are fish. All these bills do is eliminate commercial fishing,” Petersen said. “If you want to buy Michigan-caught fish, you can’t unless you want whitefish. If you want any other fish, buy a pole and go catch it yourself.” It’s unknown how the bills will impact restaurants, local clubs and shops that depend on Michigan caught fish to serve and sell.
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.
Related Stories on Michigan Commerical Fishing
- Historically, Saginaw Bay supported the largest commercial walleye fishery in Lake Huron and was second in the Great Lakes to only Lake Erie. History of the Saginaw Bay Fishery
- While commercial fishing is banned from harvesting walleye, the number of recreational fishermen fishing in Saginaw Bay has dramatically dropped over the past 30 years. Is Saginaw Bay at risk of seeing a crash of walleye populations due to the lack of forage fish? Too Many Walleye Not Enough Fishing Possible Crash Coming?
- It’s taken 50 years. The State of Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources has a published strategy and policymaking that has effectively curtailed commercial fishing in Michigan to the brink of extinction. Is it the End of Commercial Fishing in Michigan?
- The planned demise of commercial fishing is not just occurring in Michigan. It’s happening across the United States. On the east coast, NOAA’s hopeful efforts along New England serve to wipe out an industry while doing nothing for the fishery it intended to save. Is Commercial Fishing Dead in the Water
- Although only five hundred people live in Bayport year round, thousands of tourists pass through the town en route to other attractions in the Thumb area, including is historic fish market. With the Michigan Commercial Fishing Bills looking to pass, Is Bay Port’s Historic Commercial Fishing District Days Numbered?