UPDATE #3: Negotiations with Michigan’s Tribes- Issues facing Recreational fishers- Entry and Effort.
This is the third in the series of updates that we will be posting to let those interested in the sport and commercial fisheries of the Great Lakes know what challenges the Parties face in the negotiation of a new agreement between the State, the Federal government and the five Michigan Tribes holding a Treaty right to fish in the Michigan portion of the upper Great Lakes. The first update gave you some background on the negotiations. The second update discussed the issues facing recreational fishers in the sharing of the Great Lakes fisheries with the Tribes.
This update discusses a critical issue facing both the Tribes and the recreational fishery. That issue is: in the face of a reduced number of fish available to be caught, what does it mean for the Tribal and recreational fisheries? First some background; It was over 20 years ago that we negotiated an agreement between the State, the Tribes, and the Federal government to divide up the fishing opportunities between the State and the Tribes. That agreement generally allocated commercial whitefish harvest to the Five Tribes. The catch of salmon was generally allocated to the State recreational fishery and the goal was to share the lake trout catch approximately equally between the Tribal and State fisheries.
In the early years of the agreement, the Tribal fishery was highly successful. For example, according to data supplied by the Tribes, the Tribes caught almost 4,000,000 pounds of whitefish in 2008 in Lake Superior and the northern waters of Lakes Michigan and Huron. In addition, the Tribes caught over 600,000 pounds of lake trout. At the same time, State data reported that the recreational fishery in these waters caught about 2,000,000 pounds of salmon and 175,000 pounds of lake trout.
02-01-2021 UPDATE #2: Negotiations with Michigan’s Tribes- Issues facing Sport fishers-Allocation
This is the second in the series of updates that we will be posting to let those interested in the sport and commercial fisheries of the Great Lakes know what is happening in the negotiation of a new agreement between the State, the Federal government and the five Michigan tribes holding a Treaty right to fish in the Michigan portion of the Great Lakes. The first update gave you some background on the negotiations. This update addresses the issues facing sport fishers in the sharing of the Great Lakes fisheries with the Tribes.
Since 1985, the arrangement between the Tribes, the State of Michigan and the Federal government to share the fisheries of the Great Lakes has been contained in two agreements that were negotiated by the parties and then put in place by the Federal Court in west Michigan as a “Consent Decree.” The first Decree was implemented in 1985. It had a 15-year term. In 2000, a second Decree was put in place by the Court. It had a 20-year term. It expired last year but has been extended by the Court while the parties negotiate a new agreement.
A critical issue to the past two agreements, and one that will be critical to a new agreement, is the division of the Great Lakes fishery between the Tribes and those fishers who are licensed by the State. The 1985 agreement allocated the Great Lakes fishery among the parties by lake, zones, species, and catch limits. It was premised on a roughly 50-50 allocation of the fishery between the State and the Tribes. The Tribes were principally allocated whitefish stocks and the State was principally allocated salmon stocks. Lake trout stocks were shared with the allocation to each party differing based on the area of the Great Lakes at issue. Generally, the Tribes were allocated more lake trout in areas where they were pursuing whitefish and State licensed fishers were allocated more in traditional sportfishing areas. Overall, however, the fishery resources were generally shared equally. Further, the zones created for State and Tribally licensed fishers reduced gear conflict between commercial nets, particularly gill nets and traditional sportfishing gear.
01-15-2021 UPDATE 1: Current Negotiations with Michigan’s Tribes- Some Background
This is the first in a series of updates that we will be posting to let those interested in the sport and commercial fisheries of the Great Lakes know what is happening in the negotiation of a new agreement between the State, the Federal government, and the five Michigan tribes holding a Treaty right to fish in the Michigan portion of the Great Lakes. This update is presented by the Coalition to Protect Michigan Resources, an association of sportfishing and natural resource organizations that are participating in the negotiations.
Many are aware of the effects of the Treaty of 1836 and the right to fish the Great Lakes that it grants to five Michigan Tribes. For the uninitiated, though, this first update will give you a very brief background on how we got to where we are today. This background will be brief because the issues we currently face have been around for more than 50 years and books have been written that tell the history of the current issues.
2020 Consent Decree Update #1
A Continuing Resolution
The Decree is currently set to expire on December 31, 2020. The parties began negotiations regarding a successor agreement in September 2019. The negotiations were unexpectedly upended by the coronavirus pandemic in March of 2020, and the process advanced slower than hoped. To help the process, the parties stipulated to the appointment of a mediator: former Michigan State Supreme Court Justice Michael F. Cavanaugh (ECF No. 1876). With the assistance of Justice Cavanaugh, the parties have resolved some of the outstanding issues. The Court recognizes the difficulty of assembling seven parties and fostering an agreement in the best of times, and the current situation is certainly less than the best of times. The Court is impressed with the parties’ continued resolution of the complicated issues involved in creating a successor Decree. The Court commends the efforts of both the parties and Justice Cavanaugh.
Hearing no objection to the motion to extend, it will be granted. Accordingly,
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the 2000 Great Lakes Fishing Decree is hereby amended: the final sentence of § XXII(A) shall now read “The Decree shall expire on June 30, 2021.”
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Joint Motion to Extend the Decree (ECF No. 1901) is GRANTED.
IT IS SO ORDERED. Date: December 8, 2020
/s/ Paul L. Maloney Paul L. Maloney United States District Judge
Earlier this year, we updated you on the agreement between the State and five Michigan Tribes that have governed Tribal commercial and sportfishing in the northern Great Lakes for the last 20 years. (The map below shows the Tribal areas.) That agreement was set to expire on August 8 of this year and negotiations for a new agreement were ongoing at the time we reported to you. Your Association is an active participant in a coalition of Sportfishing and conservation groups concerned about the Great Lakes fishery that is involved in the negotiations. Others in the Coalition to Protect Michigan Resources (protectmiresources.com) are the MUCC and the MSSFA, along with a dozen other groups. Recently, several new groups have joined the Coalition to support its efforts.
We reported in the spring that there was a real concern that the 20-year agreement would expire with nothing in place to define the relative rights of state and tribal fishers. Here’s where things stand today:
Negotiations with the help of a Mediator are ongoing.