From the Helm . . .
What a summer! COVID-19, The Consent Decree; three Commercial Fishing bills. Trying to deal with all of these issues, and more, while also trying to run a charter boat, and maintain a full-time job.
However, I believe that through our efforts, but with great difficulty and much struggling, we are slowly moving forward toward solutions for each of these issues.
Hopefully, by next summer there will be a vaccine and/or better treatments for the Covid Virus and it will no longer be such a major issue, but it caused huge problems for us all in the spring. Many of our charter businesses were affected; trips and bookings were down, However, after May 6, when boating and chartering were allowed again, it may have been at least a little beneficial, as people who had been cooped up for months apparently wanted to get outside. In many areas bookings increased.
The three commercial fishing bills are currently stalled in the State Senate Natural Resources Committee. Senator McBroom from Waucedah in the Upper Peninsula is the chair of this committee and is a strong advocate for commercial fishing interests. I testified on behalf of the MCBA at a commercial fishing hearing in June. I also participated in a conference call on August 12th with Senator McBroom. He believes that the commercial fishing industry should help the MDNR with what he believes is the overpopulation of Walleye in Saginaw Bay. He also believes that commercial fishers on Lake Michigan should be allowed to keep and sell their Lake Trout by-catch. The facts suggest that the whitefish fishery is crashing and that the commercial fishing industry now wants to begin to harvest currently protected game fish. We believe that the commercial fishing industry should be doing research to figure out how to rehabilitate whitefish, perhaps with hatcheries similar to the ways sportfishing groups rehabilitated Lake Trout and Walleyes. Sportfishing species should continue to be protected from commercial harvest. Sen McBroom says the industry wanted to help with Walleye and Lake trout but weren’t allowed. The decline in the commercial fishery began several years ago. Now would be a good time for them to begin to attempt to rehabilitate the Whitefish fishery,
The Consent Decree with the Tribes expired on August 8th. Judge Maloney issued an order to extend the Decree until December 31st. He denied a tribal request to permit the decree rules to lapse and allow tribal fishing by all means and methods on all of Lake Michigan. Negotiations are going on in small groups. Details are confidential.
The COVID-19 issue has made it very difficult for all sports groups who are trying to raise funds from their dues and other means to share in the cost of the negotiations by the Coalition to Protect Michigan Resources. Steve Schultz and Chris Patterson are working endless hours trying to protect our sportfishing areas and rights. Please consider making a donation to the MCBA Tribal Decree fund when you renew your MCBA membership. We have drained our funds, and we have a long way to go. We truly need strong financial help from our membership. If we fail to achieve a successful new agreement, more nets and possibly even gill nets, maybe coming to a port near you.
Unfortunately, the Association had to cancel the MCBA Fall Conference due to the COVID meeting restrictions. We are now looking to find a place for the 2021 Fall Conference. Motel and Conference rates have more than doubled recently, making the search more difficult.
There will be an MCBA Board Meeting on September 27th at the Doherty Hotel at 10:00 AM. All MCBA meetings are open to all members. If you are interested in attending a board meeting, please contact the director for your region.
All of these issues will require a great deal of time, money, and effort, over the next several months. We will be working at it as hard as we can. It would be wonderful if all of these issues could be resolved successfully by this time next year. We are hopeful.
Captain Bill Winowiecki
Michigan Charter Boat Association